Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A doctor investigates a suspicious death while navigating the ethical complexities of abortion in this medical thriller.


"A Case of Need" is a medical thriller written by Michael Crichton under the pseudonym Jeffrey Hudson. Published in 1968, the novel explores the ethical dilemmas faced by medical professionals, the complexities of the healthcare system, and the struggle for justice. With his characteristic blend of suspense and scientific accuracy, Crichton takes readers on a gripping journey that exposes the dark underbelly of the medical world.

Brief Synopsis

The story is set in Boston during the late 1960s, a time when abortion was illegal in most of the United States. Dr. John Berry, a pathologist at Boston Memorial Hospital, finds himself embroiled in a controversial case when his close friend and fellow doctor, Dr. Arthur Lee, is accused of performing an illegal abortion that led to the death of a young woman named Karen Randall.

As Berry delves into the case, he becomes convinced of Lee's innocence and believes there is more to Karen's death than meets the eye. With the help of a few trusted colleagues and his girlfriend, Berry sets out to uncover the truth behind Karen's death and expose the real culprits. However, his investigation takes him down a dangerous path, putting his career and personal life at stake.

Main Characters

Character NameDescription
Dr. John BerryThe protagonist, a pathologist who becomes embroiled in the case to clear his friend's name
Dr. Arthur LeeBerry's close friend and colleague, accused of performing an illegal abortion
Karen RandallThe young woman who died after an alleged abortion
J.D. RandallKaren's father and a powerful figure in the medical community
Evangeline LeeDr. Arthur Lee's wife

Summary of Story Points

Chapters 1-5: Introduction and Discovery

  • Introduction of Dr. John Berry and his relationship with Dr. Arthur Lee.
  • Karen Randall's death is revealed, and Dr. Lee is accused of performing an illegal abortion.
  • Berry starts investigating the case and discovers inconsistencies in the evidence.

Chapters 6-10: Uncovering Secrets

  • Berry meets with Karen's father, J.D. Randall, who seems eager to pin the blame on Dr. Lee.
  • Berry uncovers a mysterious connection between Karen and another doctor at Boston Memorial Hospital.
  • He begins to suspect a cover-up and starts digging deeper into the hospital's operations.

Chapters 11-15: Facing Obstacles

  • Berry faces resistance from hospital administrators and other doctors who want the case to be closed quickly.
  • He encounters threats and intimidation as he gets closer to the truth.
  • Berry's girlfriend, Angela, supports his investigation and helps him gather crucial evidence.

Chapters 16-20: The Final Showdown

  • Berry discovers a hidden network of illegal abortions and the powerful individuals involved.
  • He confronts the culprits and risks his own life to bring justice to Karen's death.
  • The shocking truth behind the case is revealed, affecting Berry and those involved forever.

Main Events

  1. Dr. Lee is accused of performing an illegal abortion.
  2. Dr. Berry starts investigating the case and uncovers inconsistencies.
  3. Berry discovers a mysterious connection between Karen and another doctor.
  4. Berry faces resistance and threats from hospital administrators and others.
  5. Berry uncovers a network of illegal abortions and confronts the culprits.

Themes and Insights

Ethical Dilemmas in Medicine

"A Case of Need" raises important ethical questions surrounding abortion, medical malpractice, and the responsibility of doctors. It explores the moral gray areas that medical professionals often navigate and the decisions they face when confronted with controversial situations.

Corruption and Power

The novel delves into the corrupt underbelly of the medical world, highlighting how power and influence can be used to manipulate the system. It exposes the lengths to which some individuals will go to protect their reputations and maintain control.

Justice and Redemption

The pursuit of justice and the search for redemption are central themes in the book. Dr. Berry's relentless quest to clear his friend's name and bring the real culprits to justice reflects the human desire for truth and accountability.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Case of Need" is a gripping medical thriller that not only entertains but also raises thought-provoking questions about the healthcare system and the ethical dilemmas faced by medical professionals. Crichton's meticulous research and engaging storytelling keep readers on the edge of their seats, while also shedding light on important societal issues.


"A Case of Need" is a captivating novel that combines suspense, medical drama, and ethical exploration. Through its thrilling plot and well-developed characters, the book offers a thought-provoking look into the complexities of the medical world and the pursuit of justice. Michael Crichton's masterful storytelling keeps readers engrossed from beginning to end, making "A Case of Need" a must-read for fans of medical thrillers and ethical dilemmas.

A Case of Need FAQ

  1. What is 'A Case of Need' about?

    'A Case of Need' is a medical thriller novel written by Michael Crichton. It follows the story of a pathologist who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation when a young woman dies after a botched abortion. The protagonist must navigate a web of medical conspiracy and corruption to uncover the truth.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Case of Need'?

    The author of 'A Case of Need' is Michael Crichton, who is known for his bestselling novels like 'Jurassic Park' and 'The Andromeda Strain'.

  3. When was 'A Case of Need' published?

    'A Case of Need' was first published in 1968.

  4. Is 'A Case of Need' based on a true story?

    No, 'A Case of Need' is a work of fiction. However, Michael Crichton, who was a medical student at the time of writing the novel, extensively researched the medical aspects to make the story feel realistic.

  5. What genre does 'A Case of Need' belong to?

    'A Case of Need' is a medical thriller novel, combining elements of crime fiction and suspense with medical and ethical dilemmas.

  6. Are there any movie adaptations of 'A Case of Need'?

    Yes, 'A Case of Need' was adapted into a film titled 'The Carey Treatment' in 1972, starring James Coburn.

  7. Where can I buy 'A Case of Need'?

    'A Case of Need' can be purchased from various online and physical bookstores. It is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

  8. Is 'A Case of Need' part of a series?

    No, 'A Case of Need' is a standalone novel and not part of a series.

  9. What are some other popular books by Michael Crichton?

    Some other popular books by Michael Crichton include 'Jurassic Park', 'The Andromeda Strain', 'Timeline', and 'Congo'.

  10. Is 'A Case of Need' suitable for all readers?

    'A Case of Need' contains mature themes and medical details that may not be suitable for all readers. It is recommended for adult readers or mature young adults.