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In the episode Harm when S. Epetha Merkerson gives that assessment of
Jerry Orbach siding with an ex-wife you know you're in for an
intriguing Law And Order story.
But this episode has Angie Harmon taking center stage and doing the investigation and taking the number one seat for a case she developed and believed in over Sam Waterston. This episode starts as an assault on a retired divorce attorney, then moves to a disgruntled ex-wife of a doctor who did the assault and that leads to a medical malpractice case that turns out to be Criminally Negligent Homicide. A really nice bit of writing on this episode had all these gliding together and making perfectly valid sense.
Harmon was always my favorite of all the ADAs who second chaired Sam Waterston. Her instincts get aroused, she does her own investigation and she discovers an incredible case of cover-up when these doctors perform laser surgery with a new piece of equipment they're not really familiar with and which in fact is being operated during the surgery by a company salesperson played by Melinda Wade. That's what gets her to court and a trial of these doctors.
It may have been Jerry Orbach's unexpected sympathies that started the ball rolling, but this fine episode belongs to Angie Harmon.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Up to the usual standards. An assault leads Briscoe and Curtis into the
operating room where a patient died under confusing circumstances. A
simple operation involved the use of equipment so new that the sales
representative was called into the OR to operate it. It didn't work.
Despite warnings from the OR nurse, the patient died. It isn't known
whether the operation was a success. To find out, we'd have to know if
the team were.
The docs I know are all principled, most of them far more than I am, but the episode is interesting because it illustrates the insidious way in which profit can come to have precedence over prudence in the practice of medicine.
I used to teach this stuff in a class in Social Problems and it's fascinating. Some docs in private practice receive most of their income from doing trials of new drugs. They're paid by the pharmaceutical companies to do it. And the results are duly published in journals funded by the pharmaceutical companies. The new meds always seem to work. (The same thing goes on in the oil industry, where scientists are paid to discover that there is no such thing as anthropogenic climate change.)
The docs in this case received kickbacks from the Med-Tech Corporation for using their faulty equipment, but in most cases it's all thoroughly legitimate. All that money that pharmaceutical companies say goes into research? The money that justifies the high prices for their meds? Some of it is used in an ethical search for medicines that don't yet exist but would fill a purpose. But much of it goes into research on "me-too" drugs. These are drugs that seek to imitate already successful drugs by jiggling an atom or two on some prosthetic group of the original molecule, just different enough to avoid patent infringement. If the "new" drug turns out to do the same thing as the original -- voila! A share of the market! I'll now get down off this podium if somebody will lend me a hand. Thank you. Oops. Damned game ankle again.
This case really gets under Angie Harmon's skin for some reason. Of course she's always more hard-nosed than Sam Waterston, and as usual Steven Hill is in the background, shrugging his shoulders in irritation and advising them to make a deal.
The miscreant doctor winds up going to jail. He ran an obstetrical mill on Park Avenue and he wears his hair in a style fashionable when this episode was shot. The doc who testified at the O. J. Simpson trial wore a similar style. I won't even bother to describe it. He's going to have a hard time, even in a minimum-security facility. Besides losing his Aesculapian authority, he'll have to suffer a prison haircut, the most unkindest cut of all, and look like Moe in the Three Stooges.
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