Lethal Dose

Snodgrass, Steven

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy
  • Date of entry: Nov-22-1996
  • Last revised: Dec-12-2006


Jeff Taylor, a young surgeon whose career was cut short by a hand accident, decides, after finishing a residency in anesthesia, to enter the newest residency program offered by Northwest Regional Hospital: a program in euthanasia. The novel features three residents and their superior; a reporter for a tabloid who tapes hospital conversations; Pennington, a wealthy conservative who wants to increase pressure on those performing abortions; and Micah Chaine, an ex-priest hired by Pennington to work behind the scenes setting up demonstrations and setting off bombs.

Chaine, feeding on his own religious beliefs, decides those involved in the euthanasia program must die. When Pennington wants out of their deal, Chaine kidnaps Pennington's wife and one of the euthanasia residents and sets bombs for the others.


This first novel, written by a young surgeon, moves swiftly toward its troubling conclusion. The pros and cons surrounding the euthanasia residency program are first among many other issues Snodgrass brings before readers.

These issues are: the anti-abortion movement's possible effects on other medical issues equally unpopular with conservatives; the media's ability to move the general public to action; the role of medical personnel other than physicians, personnel such as orderlies and nurses who are often ignored, overlooked, and under-appreciated; the difficulty of stopping certain actions that have been set in motion; the fact that decision-making can be just as difficult when dealing with the dying as it is when dealing with the living; the powerful effect religious belief can have on conditions in the secular world; and the inevitable presence of evil.

Whether the novel's last chapters are the result of Snodgrass's lack of experience in characterization and closure or are his very carefully planned challenge to those in medicine and to his readers is hard to tell. The ending is, however, both chilling and thought-provoking.



Place Published

Orlando, Fla.