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"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 1106 released in all
Logan Greevey Prescription for Death
Teleplay By
Ed Zuckerman

Story By
Ed Zuckerman & David Black

Directed By
John Whitesell

After a young woman dies suddenly in an Emergency Room, detectives Max Greevey and Mike Logan discover that the chief resident, Dr. Edward Auster, may have been drunk at the time.

Plot

After Suzanne Morton dies during a visit to the emergency room to pick up some antibiotics on a hectic night shift. Her father, a former medic in Vietnam, demands 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.

Summary

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 is as he has been waiting for 40 minutes; the receptionist responds with that they must for a response from admitting before she can let him in to see his daughter. Howard's 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, shut 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 the emergency room. After several attempts to resuscitate Suzanne, the nurses call it in and announce the time of death, 23:17 (11:17 P.M.). Distraught from developments, Morton expresses his frustration and confusion as hospital security takes him out, shouting that how Suzanne could die when she came in for an antibiotic prescription for her sore throat and muscle aches.

Morton goes to the 36th Precinct and talks to Detective 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 skeptical 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 taking off. 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 him being charged a Class-E felony while Raza pleads with Logan, saying that he must be twice as good as Indian American to be considered as a good as a non-Indian. 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.)

Cast

Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast

References

36th Precinct; Emergency Room; Suzanne Morton; Urban Medical Center

Quotes

"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?"
"The weapon."

- 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)
  • Actor Chris Noth supplied his own brown leather coat for this episode, after buying it from a second-hand clothing store.
  • 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 will later star 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 will be working from the 27th Precinct.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

36th Precinct
Midtown Manhattan
Thursday, March 29

Urban Medical Center
Friday, March 30

The Office of
Suzanne Morton's
Personal Physician
Tuesday, April 3

Dr. Robert Abraham's
Apartment
Wednesday, April 4

5 6 7

Office of
Executive District Attorney
Benjamin Stone
Wednesday, May 2

Manhattan Superior Court
Tuesday, June 14

Manhattan District Attorney
Adam Schiff's Office
Friday, June 15


Previous episode:
"None"
"Prescription for Death"
Law & Order
Season 1
Next episode:
"Subterranean Homeboy Blues"
Seasons 1234567891011121314151617181920

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