While I’ve often written for medical publications—both fiction and non—I am not myself a physician. But I’ve been on the receiving end of more than my share of surgeries and treatments, so I can definitely write from the patient’s perspective. When I wrote non-fiction medical information for the trade market, my editors usually viewed my “lack of knowledge” as a benefit. My ignorance meant I naturally said “miscarriage” instead of “spontaneous abortion” and “bruise” instead of “contusion.”
But when I decided to branch into fiction to explore complex medical issues (Lethal Harvest; Deadly Cure; False Positive), I knew I had gaps in my knowledge that only years in med school, the exam room, and the surgical suite could make up for. So I partnered with an obstetrical-gynecologist. My last novel, Lethal Harvest,was a solo work of medical suspense, but he still edited it for medical accuracy.
One of the good doctor’s “catches” was my lack of knowledge about sterile surfaces. In one scene I had described a gloved-up physician, upon receiving shocking news, grasping the surgical table. But my actual-surgeon reader said, “No way. You just risked infecting the patient.”
But the doctor’s far more memorable catch was actually a typo. I meant to have my main-character physician, who was sitting in his research area, ask his assistant to bring him a glass of H2O. But I accidentally wrote H2O as HO2—hydroperoxyl radical, also known as the perhydroxyl radical. The margin note I received in response was simply this: “Congratulations. You just blew up the lab.”
Dr. Sandra Glahn is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books, including four medical suspense novels that explore ethical and theological complexities. Lethal Harvest, now in its second edition, was a Christy Award finalist.