|"Prescription for Death"|
|L&O, Episode 1.01||→|
|Production number: 66209|
First aired: 13 September 1990
|←||9th of 456 produced in L&O||→|
|1st of 456 released in L&O||→|
|1st of 1185 released in all||→|
| Teleplay By|
Ed Zuckerman & David Black
After Suzanne Morton dies during a visit to the emergency room to pick up some antibiotics on a hectic night shift. Her father, Howard - a former medic in Vietnam - demands that the police charge the hospital with murder, stating they were negligent. Logan and Greevey investigate the doctor who had made some adjustments to her chart, but are soon led to Dr. Edward Auster, a respected doctor. The other residents are reluctant to say anything for fear their jobs may be in jeopardy, and Stone is faced with the awkward job of having to prosecute a man who appears to be a living saint.
The emergency room at Urban Medical Center is crowded with an over-admittance of patients and understaffed workers working to the best of their ability. Howard Morton (John Spencer) asks the receptionist at the front desk where his daughter Suzanne is, as he has been waiting for 40 minutes; the receptionist responds that they must wait for a response from admitting before she can let him in to see his daughter. Suzanne suddenly shows signs of cardiac arrest, and a team of nurses and a doctor are doing what they can to save her. A security guard observes everyone trying to save Suzanne, but the doctor, looking annoyed, shuts the curtains around them to obtain privacy. Taking an opportunity of everyone being distracted, Morton barges through the emergency room, pulls back the curtain, and argues with the doctor who tells Morton to leave. After several attempts to resuscitate Suzanne, the nurses call it in and announce the time of death, 23:17 (11:17 P.M.). An obviously distraught Howard expresses his frustration and confusion as hospital security takes him out, demanding to know how Suzanne could possibly have died when she came in for a simple antibiotic prescription for her sore throat and muscle aches.
Howard Morton goes to the 36th Precinct and talks to Detectives Greevey and Logan in the squad-room. Recapping what happened to his daughter at the hospital earlier, he tells Greevey that he wants to file a murder complaint against the resident in charge of Urban Medical Center. The detectives go into Captain Donald Cragen's office to discuss the next course of action. Cragen is wary of suspecting a hospital of being criminally negligent, while Greevey is convinced by Morton's account; the detectives are then given the okay to go investigate the incident. They first question an intern resident, who admits that Suzanne was the last patient he admitted before retiring for the day. He is genuinely surprised by the news of her death as he says she was admitted with having bronchitis. The nurse who called in the TOA tells the detectives that she had pneumonia. Confused by the different stories they were told, the detective talk to Dr. Ekballa Raza (Erick Avari), the doctor on-call who responded to Suzanne. Raza just admitted that she was very sick and should've been sent to the ICU. Greevey and Logan then go out to talk to the security that escorted Morton out of the hospital. The one who looked over the team before having Raza shut the curtains in front of him says that the way the doctors and nurses were talking to and looking at each other wasn't right, and that it was suspicious how they all seemed "embarrassed" about the situation.
While waiting to speak with the Chief of Medicine, Dr. Edward Auster (Paul Sparer), Greevey and Logan discuss about they heard so far when Logan points about his partner's animosity towards the case. Greevey explains that he despises doctors because a simple subdural hematoma he had from an injury on the job was once misdiagnosed as a inoperable brain tumor. Soon, Dr. Auster lets the detectives in, explaining that he left Suzanne in capable hands and that while working in a hospital, there are some cases that no one really knows what ailment a patient has. The detectives receive Suzanne's hospital records and Greevey notices there's white-out on her chart, which the records clerk says isn't possible because that would lead to legal repercussions.
Suzanne's medical chart is taken to be examined. On top of the white-out, she was prescribed with acetaminophen (written as "acetaminophine"), a common painkiller, but under the white-out, she was given meperidine, a narcotic. It is also determined that the person who wrote meperidine is also the one who wrote acetaminophen and that the person's initials "ER" is Dr. Raza. The detectives go talk to Suzanne's personal physician who explains that he only prescribed her an antibiotic and an antihistamine while Suzanne's psychiatrist had her on phenelzine sulfate, which would treat the depression Suzanne developed after her mother's death. They visit the medical examiner and find that Suzanne didn't have any traces of meperidine or phenelzine in her system. The M.E. further explains that taking these two together would likely result in death. Dr. Raza is reinterviewed by the detectives who insists that his exhaustion made him carelessly write meperidine, only gave Suzanne acetaminophen, and that he only used white-out to avoid paperwork involving with falsely prescribing a narcotic. Logan threatens Raza with a Class-E felony, while Raza pleads with Logan for mercy, saying that because of his ethnic background he must always be twice as good as any other doctor. With previous patients, Raza has gone by the books before and Auster stands by Raza's good name, saying that Suzanne's medical chart was a one-time mistake. Greevey and Logan revisit the hospital, only to be told by a nurse that on a night with late rounds, it seemed like Auster had been drinking.
(More to be added soon.)
- George Dzundza as Sergeant Max Greevey
- Chris Noth as Detective Mike Logan
- Dann Florek as Captain Donald Cragen
- Michael Moriarty as Executive A.D.A. Benjamin Stone
- Richard Brooks as A.D.A. Paul Robinette
- Steven Hill as D.A. Adam Schiff
- Paul Sparer as Dr. Edward Auster
- John Spencer as Howard Morton
- Ron Rifkin as Defense Attorney Phillip Nevins
- Erick Avari as Dr. 'Ekballa' Raza
- Alvin Epstein as Dr. Chester
- Maryann Urbano as Dr. Jean Mills
- Bruce McCarty as Dr. Stephen Simonson
- Ed Setrakian as Hoffman
- W.T. Martin as Dr. Lignell
- Daniel Benzali as Medical Examiner
- Frederica Meister as Mrs. Melanie Stivic
- Annie Corley as Stewart
- Rocky Carroll as Dr. Davids
- William Roerick as Dr. Robert Abraham
- Russell Horton as Markham Markowitz
- Tom Kubiak as Dr. Rasmussen
- Harry S. Murphy as Don
- Maeve McGuire as Dr. Walters
- Stephanie J. Gordon as Nurse #1
- Kate Wilkinson as Gray-Haired Lady
- Shona Tucker as Records Clerk
- Nick Damici as Officer Dubuque
- Chaz McCormack as McInerny
- Lee Tergesen as Clemens
- Joan Kaye as Nurse #2
- Sean Whitesell as Intern
- Avis McCarther as Secretary (uncredited)
- Derrick Simmons as Stabber (uncredited)
"Look! Someone's lying! Whether it's Gunja Din or Doctor God, we don't know."
- - Max Greevey
"You solve every case you work on?"
"We can tell a felony from a traffic ticket."
"Look, a patient walks in with a headache. She could have a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a berry aneurysm, a retro-orbital tumor... or does she just have a headache? Do you give her an aspirin? Or do you saw open her skull?"
"You make this speech at funerals?"
- - Dr. Edward Auster, Mike Logan, and Max Greevey
"My children want to stay in this country, my wife wants to stay, and to stay, all I have to do is to be perfect all the time!"
"Well you, uh, fell a little short of perfection on Suzanne Morton's chart."
- - Dr. Raza and Mike Logan
"Isn't it possible that pneumonia killed Suzanne Morton?"
"It's possible that death rays from Mars killed her. But I don't think so."
- - Phillip Nevins and Medical Examiner
"Well, people like to believe that medicine is pure science. Medicine is a science. But doctors know it's also a lottery."
- - Dr. Edward Auster
"We got what we needed from Dr. Simonson."
"An intern, Mr. Stone. Are you planning on asking the cleaning lady to testify, too? About the time I threw the tissue into the wastepaper basket and missed?"
- - Benjamin Stone and Dr. Edward Auster
"When you practice medicine, Mr. Stone, sometimes the patient dies."
"And when you're a lawyer, Dr. Auster, some of the people you prosecute are convicted."
- - Dr. Edward Auster and Benjamin Stone
"You know the difference between Auster and a serial killer?"
- - Benjamin Stone and Paul Robinette
Background information and notes
- This was the first aired episode of Law & Order. The episode "Everybody's Favorite Bagman" (1.06) was the pilot episode for the series. Although originally produced for CBS in 1988, it never aired on that network. In syndication and on the first season DVD, the episodes are shown with "Prescription for Death" as the first episode.
- This episode is based on the Libby Zion case. Zion was an 18-year-old woman who died six hours after being admitted to New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center with a high fever. A grand jury determined that the long hours of often unsupervised interns and residents contributed to her death. Although her father, an attorney and writer for the New York Times, claimed inadequate care resulted in his daughter's death but the hospital was cleared of criminal charges. An appeals court exonerated the doctors, the subsequent investigation led New York State to form the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Emergency Services, more commonly known as the Bell Commission. This committee developed a series of regulations that addressed several patient care issues, including restraint usage, medication systems, and resident work hours. One aspect of these regulations is commonly referred to in the medical community as "the Libby Zion Law" and "the Libby Law," setting limits to working hours for medical "post graduates" (commonly referred to as interns and residents). (Source: Libby Zion law at Wikipedia)
- Actor Chris Noth supplied his own brown leather coat for this episode, after buying it from a second-hand clothing store. (citation needed • edit)
- In this episode we learn that Executive Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Stone's father was an alcoholic, and drank every day at lunch. We also learn that Captain Donald Cragen has a drinking problem, and that he was partnered to Detective Max Greevey.
- Detectives Max Greevey and Mike Logan have very different opinions about health care. Logan is glad that his father is still alive because of a heart transplant, but Greevey despises doctors because a simple subdural hematoma was once misdiagnosed as a brain tumor.
- Actors Bruce McCarty and Daniel Benzali later starred together in the CBS drama The Agency.
- According to one of the scene cards, the detectives are stationed at the 36th Precinct. In later episodes the Homicide Department works from the 27th Precinct.
Episode scene cards
Urban Medical Center
The Office of
Dr. Robert Abraham's
Manhattan Superior Court
Manhattan District Attorney
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