The Committee Will Kill You Now, an Essential Medical Thriller by JL Lycette

The Bottom Line: A must-read thriller about medical ethics and innumerable pressures facing American physicians. 

At Seattle’s fictional University Hospital, there’s an unwritten rule banning sick leave for residents. These highly trained, overextended physicians are expected to show up for work unless they are dead. Accordingly, when intern Dr. Jasmine Doherty doesn’t show up for work one morning, death is indeed the reason. When work spreads around the staff that Jasmine took her own life, fellow physician Noah Meier is rocked by the news. 

Grief associated with Jasmine’s suicide is only the latest pressure facing Noah. Sleep deprivation is an accepted part of his life, as he routinely works 36 hour shifts with minimal recovery time in between. He’s also haunted by the memory of his father, Dr. Thomas Meier, a gifted surgeon and renowned academic. Noah is also deeply insecure, facing both the impossible task of living up to both his father’s reputation and his personal standards. Even when faced with internal conversations related to Jasmine’s suicide, his father’s admonitions – don’t be so damn sensitive – creep into his thoughts. 

But those problems pale in comparison to the next crisis – the realization that he ordered tube feeds to be started through a patient’s peritoneal dialysis catheter, which is not designed for that purpose. For better or worse, Noah is the first to recognize this potentially lethal error, and is faced with not only how to correct the damage, but also the decision as to whether to cover it up.

In a story that already crackles with gravity, author JL Lycette isn’t quite done hurling trouble at her protagonist. A message from a journalist intended for his father reveals the existence of an upcoming expose about The God Committee, a group of people tasked with making life-and-death decisions for kidney patients. When Noah digs into his father’s journals to find out more, he realizes that Thomas Meier’s legacy is far more complex than he had assumed.

Lycette, a real-life physician and author of The Algorithm Will See You Now, has delivered another hard-hitting cautionary tale. Though The Committee Will Kill You Now works as a stand-alone book in almost every way, the two books share a setting, characters (Dr. Marah Maddox among them), and numerous parent-child relationship themes. But like its predecessor, the themes are based in reality. As Lycette reveals in the Author Notes at the end of the book, the God Committee was very real. In addition, Lycette’s real-world data bout the high suicide rate among interns hits hard, as does the proposed corrective measures. The most progressive medical institutions limit residents to 80 hours a week, and only 24 hours of consecutive duty. Noah’s reaction is priceless: “that sounds so good to me right now, but to most people, that kind of schedule would still sound insane.” It does. We called Lycatte’s last book, which explored AI’s role in medicine, “truly important,” and we’ll double-down on that for The Committee Will Kill You. The book is exceptionally written, and only the most heartless reader won’t be immediately bought into Noah’s plight. Lycette has delivered another work of serious fiction that deserves a wide audience.

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