Michael Byers

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Long for This World

Byers, Michael

Last Updated: Jan-19-2004
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel


Henry Moss is a medical geneticist specializing in Hickman syndrome, a fictitious disease resembling progeria. Children with Hickman syndrome experience premature aging and invariably die before the age of twenty. The physician meets Thomas Benhamouda, a teenager who genetically has Hickman syndrome but astonishingly has no physical manifestations of the disease. Dr. Moss identifies a protein that "corrects" Hickman syndrome in the blood of Thomas and proceeds to synthesize it.

Dr. Moss violates medical ethics by administering the experimental enzyme to his favorite Hickman patient, William Durbin, a dying 14-year-old boy. It is a last-ditch effort to save William's life even though the substance has not been tested for safety or efficacy in human beings. Dr. Moss also injects himself with the enzyme. He realizes the tremendous potential the drug has not only in curing Hickman syndrome but also in extending longevity in normal individuals. He is well aware of the great financial rewards he might reap from his discovery.

After a series of injections, William's deteriorating health stabilizes and even improves but he dies in his home. Dr. Moss has failed to save the doomed boy but in the process of breaking the rules and risking his career has learned how to understand and appreciate his own life as well as reconnect with his family.

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