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FAQ for
Coma (1978) More at IMDbPro »

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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Coma can be found here.

Following the brain death of her best friend while undergoing a simple surgical procedure, Boston Memorial Hospital surgical resident, Dr Susan Wheeler (Geneviève Bujold), notices an unnatural number of post-surgical comas in young and healthy patients. When she discovers that all of these occurrences take place in surgical suite eight, afterwhich the patients are shipped off to the Jefferson Institute, she suspects a conspiracy. When she fears that she is being stalked by someone looking to kill her, she no longer knows whom to trust, including Chief of Surgery Dr George Harris (Richard Widmark) or her own boyfriend Dr Mark Bellows (Michael Douglas).

Coma (1977) is a medical thriller written by American physician-novelist Robin Cook. The novel was adapted for the movie by American screenwriter-novelist-physician Michael Crichton.

Under Dr Harris' orders, Susan is rushed to the OR for an emergency appendectomy. Susan tries to explain to Mark that Dr Harris is behind the whole scheme, but she is too woozy from the drug and Mark thinks that she's delirious. When he overhears Harris specifically ask for OR 8, however, Mark remembers Susan's warning that all the coma cases took place in that particular room. While Susan is being prepped for surgery, Mark races to the basement to locate the carbon monoxide (CO) line that she described. As he searches, the surgery begins. Susan begins to throw off PVCs (preventricular contractions), but her blood is still red, so no one is worried. Meanwhile, Mark has found the CO line and destroyed it. As the operation winds up and the anesthesiologist attempts to awaken Susan, she doesn't respond. Nonchalantly, Dr Harris says to simply give her a few minutes. As he removes his mask and gloves, Harris is astonished to hear Susan gasp and begin to breathe on her own. As Susan is wheeled out of the room, Mark and two policemen can be seen waiting outside the door. In the final scene, Harris turns off the x-ray lights and sags against the wall, knowing that he's been caught.

Carbon monoxide (CO) mainly causes adverse effects by bonding to the blood's hemoglobin (red blood cells), which carry oxygen from the lungs to the heart, brain, and other tissues. Although the body can tolerate small amounts of CO, the carboxyhemoglobin (HbCO) bond is extremely stable. Mild cases of CO poisoning may involve just getting out into the fresh air or breathing pure oxygen. Large amounts of CO can effectively 'suffocate' a person, the result being brain death even while the heart continues to beat. Treatment for severe cases of CO poisoning may require hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which the individual is placed in a breathing chamber that delivers oxygen at an air pressure several times higher than normal. This is the same treatment used on scuba divers who have ascended too rapidly to the surface and are in danger of suffering decompression sickness, aka 'the bends'.


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