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|Foreign Body by Robin Cook|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An interesting look at medical tourism and the effect of negative publicity. Set in India and with colourful locations the book delivers a good story.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 328||Date: August 2008|
Jennifer Hernandez didn't know that her world was about to be turned upside down as she sat in the surgical lounge at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was a fourth year medical student just about to complete an elective in general surgery and only half her mind was on the news report on CNN about Americans travelling to Third World Countries for medical treatments which they couldn't afford at home. The shock came when she heard the name of her beloved grandmother mentioned. Maria Hernandez had died a matter of hours after undergoing hip replacement surgery in New Delhi's Queen Victoria Hospital. Jennifer didn't know that her grandmother had flown to India. Devastated and at a loss to know how her grandmother could have suffered a heart attack she dropped everything and flew to New Delhi.
There's a thoughtful depth to this book as it looks at the situation which medical tourism produces. Provisions for healthcare in the USA are woefully inadequate for those unable to afford health insurance and Maria had devoted all her income to looking after her three grandchildren and their feckless father. The only way that she could afford the operation was to fly to India. The hospital she uses is as luxurious as a first class hotel but that's because the Indian government is keen to promote medical tourism and they're prepared to divert money which would have gone to help poorer people in India. The profits don't go back to the government though – they go to businessmen already rich beyond the dreams of most people. Patients and their visitors have to shut their eyes to the slums and garbage which sit cheek-by-jowl with the hospital.
The cultural differences between the two countries are subtly highlighted. Jennifer was an abused child but lived in a society which encouraged her to become independent and to put what had happened behind her. An Indian girl in the same situation feels that she must obey her father and when something is done to help her she feels that shame has been brought on her family. She will do anything to escape from India. Anything at all.
Two of Cook's regular characters – Laurie Montgomerie and Jack Stapleton are brought into the story although the book does centre on Jennifer Hernandez rather than the medical examiners. Cook brings India to life, illuminating the vivid cultural differences: sometimes I could see the colours and smell the squalor. The plot is not the strongest I've read and the dialogue is sometimes very stilted but it was nevertheless an enjoyable read.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
For another book which takes a forensic approach to crime we can recommend The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett.
You can read more book reviews or buy Foreign Body by Robin Cook at Amazon.co.uk
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