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Literature / Coma

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A 1976 medical Conspiracy Thriller novel by Robin Cook. In the novel, Susan Wheeler is a medical student working at the Boston Memorial Hospital. Young, healthy patients are coming in for routine operations and leaving in permanent comas. Susan investigates, eventually unearthing an Organ Theft conspiracy.

The Film of the Book was released in 1978, written and directed by Michael Crichton. It stars Geneviève Bujold as Susan (who's changed from a medical student to a full M.D.) and Michael Douglas as her doctor boyfriend Mark, along with Elizabeth Ashley, Rip Torn, and Richard Widmark. Ed Harris and Tom Selleck have early roles as a resident and a patient, respectively. The film also features a score by Jerry Goldsmith.

A Mini Series version by Ridley Scott and Tony Scott aired on A&E in 2012. Susan, once again portrayed as a medical student, is played by Lauren Ambrose while Steven Pasquale plays Mark. Also, the Boston Memorial Hospital is changed to the Peachtree Memorial Hospital, accommodating a change in setting from Boston to Atlanta.

Not to be confused with the Iranian film Komaa. Or the 2020 Russian film Coma.

Provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Evil: The movie has some fun making it ambiguous whether Mark genuinely doesn't believe in the conspiracy or if he's actually in on it. His actions make sense for either interpretation, until the end of the movie when we find out he really didn't know, which is good because someone needed to save Susan's life at that point.
  • Alternate Reality Game: For the miniseries. The Coma Conspiracy website and social networking accounts on one end and the Jefferson Institute presence at Comic-Con on the other.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Susan is blonde in the novel, but brunette in the film and redheaded in the miniseries.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: When Susan wakes up from her operation, much to Dr. Starks' dismay (he had intended to make her his next victim to ensure her silence), the final scene is of him standing in the now-deserted operating room, with the police outside waiting for him. Will he surrender peacefully, commit Suicide by Cop or do it himself? We never find out, but either way it's safe to say his career is about to end in disgrace.
  • Breeding Slave: The miniseries depicts some of the female victims of induced comas being used as surrogate mothers instead of (or prior to) becoming spare parts.
  • Buried in a Pile of Corpses: Susan first hides from the hitman trying to kill her in the medical school's anatomy lab, then manages to trap him in there.
  • Break-In Threat/Shame If Something Happened/The Villain Knows Where You Live: In the book, aside from breaking into Susan's apartment to threaten her, when the hitman is finished, he shows her a picture of her younger brother, making it clear that he'll harm him if Susan doesn't stop investigating.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Susan wakes up this way at one point in the movie.
  • The Conspiracy
  • Convenient Coma: Averted. None of the characters put into comas recover. Although they're not technically dead, they're essentially the requisite dead bodies.
  • Deadly Doctor/Mad Doctor: And how. Starks is essentially killing people in order to sell off their organs without their consent and convincing himself that its somehow all for the greater good when it's really about the money he's making.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the miniseries, Starks is killed by his fellow conspirators.
  • Emotionless Girl: Mrs. Emerson, the nurse running the Jefferson Institute.
  • Fakeout Escape: Used by Susan during the Jefferson Institute sequence.
  • He Knows Too Much: Or she, rather.
  • Hospital Hottie: Susan, Mark.
  • Karma Houdini: Lindquist in the miniseries, who's the only conspirator not arrested and is revealed to have escaped to China. It's left ambiguous whether her invitation to Mark to join her was simply working at a new hospital or in starting the entire thing up again.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: A maintenance worker who was going to tell Susan the truth.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Susan manages to lure the hitman trying to kill her into her medical school anatomy lab and locks him in, barely escaping herself. When he's finally found, he's suffering significant frostbite and hypothermia and facing amputation of his legs.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Lampshaded when the hitman throws a bucket of water over the maintenance worker, prior to shoving him into a power board and holding him there with his own broom so he's electrocuted.
    Kelly: [dripping wet] What'd you do that for?!
    Hitman: They told me to make it look like an accident. [kills him]
    • Additionally, in the book, when he is sent to kill Susan, he is told to "make it look like a rape", as if Susan were the victim of a random street crime rather than an orchestrated hit.
  • Medical Horror
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the novel, Susan quickly irritates pretty much everyone and is soon all but run out of the hospital on a rail, and her resolve is almost about to crack. At this point, the villain Stark not only sends a hitman to threaten her, confirming sinister forces are at work, but also gets Susan into the Jefferson Institute where she is quickly able to realize the full extent of what's going on. He could have literally done nothing and she likely would have given up and left Stark to continue his depredations in piece.
  • Organ Theft: The fate of everyone in the Jefferson Institute.
  • Outside Ride: Susan escapes the Jefferson Institute by clinging to the roof of an ambulance rushing the organs to the airport.
  • People Farms: The Jefferson Institute.
  • People Jars
  • Relationship Upgrade: Susan and Mark merely begin dating in the book, but are an established, cohabiting couple in the movie.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Susan is a medical student in the novel when she begins a relationship with Mark, who is a full-fledged doctor.
  • You Go, Girl!: The novel made much of Susan's struggle to be taken seriously in a male-dominated profession. This is toned down and nearly eliminated from the film, in which she's already an M.D.