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The Second Opinion
By Michael Palmer

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The Second Opinion

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The Second Opinion
By Michael Palmer
Thorndike Press, Large Print Edition (2009)
ISBN 10: 1-59722-870-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-59722-870-1
Genre: Fiction, Medical Thriller

Reviewed by Israel Drazin - July 20, 2009

Two novelists excel in writing medical mysteries. Both are physicians who write best sellers. One is Robin Cook and the second is Michael Palmer. Both write thrillers that involve medical conspiracies, generally headed by hospital personnel who are more interested in money than in their patients’ health. Even people who are unable to watch medical shows or hear about medical procedures or visit hospitals or see blood flow are able to read and enjoy the twists and turns in their books.

This novel involves Petros Sperelakis, a wealthy man, the most celebrated internal medicine specialist in the world. He is severely injured by a hit and run driver, and is lying apparently comatose, unable to move or speak or be conscious of what transpires around him, in the state of the art clinic that he founded. Three of his four children are doctors; all four are adults. Two are convinced that he will not recover and want to remove his life supports. Two oppose their siblings. Petros did not treat any of his four children well and was generally disliked in the hospital.

The two who fight the decision suffer from Asperger syndrome, a kind of autism that causes them to feel different from and to see the world unlike non-Asperger people. Yet, both are successful in what they do. They are exceptionally bright. Dimitri is an expert with computers and is considered the smartest person alive. He secludes himself in the guard house of his family’s massive estate, surrounded by computers. He develops a sophisticated computer system for his father’s state of art clinic that alters the way its doctors view their patients. Thea is a physician who feels unable to work in a hospital setting and travels to Africa where she treats the poor with Doctors Without Borders. She rushes home when she hears of her father’s injury. She is the heroine of this story.

Thea discovers that her father’s doctors had misdiagnosed Petros. She notices that Petros is able, although barely, to blink one of his eyes in response to yes and no questions. She becomes convinced that her dad has lock-down syndrome. While his body, except for the one eye, is entirely locked down and he is unable to move, he is totally conscious. He can hear and think and, what is worse, feel pain.

The book raises many questions. Was the hit and run an accident or a murder attempt? Who would want to kill Petros? Why would they want to do it? Are the two siblings who want to stop his life support involved? Will the attempted murderer or murderers try to kill him again? Will Thea be able to help her father regain his ability to speak and use his body? Who can she get to help her? Is the hospital guard that she meets on her side? Can she who has Asperger syndrome form a love relationship with a non-Asperger syndrome man? Will her Asperger induced tendency to always tell the truth hurt her relationship and stop her from solving the mystery surrounding her father? Is the woman who said she had a sexual relation with her father telling the truth? Are the doctor’s who misdiagnosed her father involved in a conspiracy?

The novel also raises issues that go beyond the book? When should people ask for medical second opinions? Does it really make sense to allow a comatose patient to die? If it does make sense, what measures should the patient’s family take to assure that they are doing the right thing in killing the patient? Can a family rely on a doctor’s opinion?

The novel moves swiftly and skillfully with changes and reverses; what seems reasonable at one moment is shown as unreasonable. Near the middle of the thriller, Thea discovers a motive that seems like a motive found in other medical thrillers, but Michael Palmer adds disclosures that complicate it. It is like Amadeus Mozart taking a peasant tune and varying it with atonal dissonances and variations that turn into a fascinating symphony.

Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of a series of books on Maimonides, a twelfth century rational philosopher, and the co-author of a series of books on Targum Onkelos, the earliest existing translation of the Hebrew Bible. Both are published by Gefen Publishing House,

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - April 8, 2009

Michael Palmer is back with a new, action-packed medical thriller called, The Second Opinion. The heroine of this story is Dr. Thea Sperelakis, a brilliant doctor who suffers from Asperger's syndrome. For years, she has been working in Africa with Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), until she is called back to Boston after her father is seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident.

What she discovers is that her father's accident may not be as accidental as it first appeared! Her father, Dr. Petros Sperelakis is the founder and medical director of the Sperelakis Institute for Diagnostic Medicine, located in Boston. Thea soon finds herself in a battle with her siblings, the twins Niko and Selene, both of whom are doctors, and their reclusive older brother, Dimitri. Their fight is over the care that their father should receive, and if he should even be receiving any treatment at all as there are indications that he suffered a traumatic brainstem injury during the accident, an injury from which his chances of recovering where slim to none. Of the four siblings, only Thea thinks that he should be treated, the rest are calling for him to be removed from life-support. Things really begin to heat up when Dimitri runs a computer program of their dad's accident that indicates that he was intentionally run over! Working with Dan Cotton, an ex-cop, Thea tries to track down the would-be assassin and to figure out why anyone would want to kill their father.

The Second Opinion is a great thriller, with Thea constantly struggling to keep one step ahead of the bad guys. It is also a story about medical fraud, erroneous medical testing, and a medical conspiracy that will have you looking over your shoulder the next time you go to your doctor or need to spend some time in a hospital! Full of unexpected twists and turns, The Second Opinion will, as the Palmer suggests, make you question everything!

The Second Opinion is one of Palmer's best books. Not only does he deliver a pulse-pounding story, but it is also a story that will make you think over some serious issues including how a family or medical practitioner decides that it is in the best interest of the patient to withhold life saving aid to a potentially terminally injured/ill patient. This novel will also teach you a great deal about Asperger's syndrome, including what it is, how it diagnosed, and the prognosis of those who receive such a diagnosis.

I highly recommend The Second Opinion, not only to Palmer's fan, but also to anyone looking to read an exciting and unforgettable novel!

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