Maria Hernandez needs a hip replacement, Herbert Benfatti has
to have a knee replaced and David Lucas wants his stomach stapled.
All travel from the US to India as participants in what has become
known as medical tourism.
With the cost of surgery marginally lower in India than in America,
it seems like a no-brainer. Especially considering the surgeries
are done in first-rate medical facilities by extremely qualified
doctors, the families are put up in five-star hotels, and patients
and loved ones are given every consideration. However, what appears
to be a great deal soon turns into a nightmare. None of these
patients expect to pay with their lives in order to save
These three seemingly healthy people suddenly die one after
another, all of apparent heart attacks. Is there a problem with the
care they've received? Did they have underlying and undiagnosed
heart problems no one was aware of? Or is there something more
sinister going on here?
When Jennifer Hernandez, a fourth-year medical student at UCLA,
learns of her grandmother's death via a CNN news report, she is
shocked. She had no idea that the woman who raised her was even
traveling to India for surgery, and intends to investigate this
unexpected tragedy. A post-surgery heart attack in an individual
who had a thorough cardiovascular checkup only months before makes
no sense to this burgeoning doctor.
The fact that the representative from the Queen Victoria hospital
is pressuring Jennifer for an immediate answer regarding either
cremation or embalming also strikes her as odd. While she realizes
that in India bodies are taken care of almost immediately after
death, she does not appreciate being coerced into a decision. The
pressure only adds to her sense that something is amiss in her
Once in India, Jennifer learns of two other patients who expired in
much the same way as Maria, and the search for answers is on.
Luckily, Jennifer is able to make contact with the surviving
spouses of the other victims and encourage them to push for an
autopsy much as she is doing. However, permission for an autopsy is
rarely given in India, and no one seems inclined to help the three
Luck is on Jennifer's side, though. Her close friend, Dr. Laurie
Montgomery, and her husband, Jack Stapleton, are both medical
examiners and have consented to travel to India in order to help
Jennifer get to the bottom of why American medical patients are
dropping like flies.
The problem is, Jennifer is becoming a major annoyance to some
powerful people in India. With the higher-ups determined to stop
her no matter what it takes, her life is in as precarious a balance
as that of the dead patients. Will she be able to solve the mystery
surrounding these deaths, or will she become just another foreign
As a fan of Robin Cook, I felt reasonably sure I would like FOREIGN
BODY before I ever picked it up. I wasn't wrong. The topic of
medical tourism is a timely one and raises questions of safety and
standards of care outside the U.S. The character of Jennifer
Hernandez is very likable, and her ability to gain answers and
justice for all of the victims is inspiring. The non-stop action
and format of the book make it one that you'll read quickly just to
see what happens next.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on January 22, 2011