"If you had to kill one person to cure cancer, wouldn’t you have to do that?"
Description: The foul question posed by Gene Hackman as research scientist Dr. Lawrence Myrick in the motion picture Extreme Measures (1996).
Dr. Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant) is a British physician serving a residence at Gramercy Hospital emergency room in New York City. One night, he treats Claude Minkins (Shaun Austin-Olsen), a naked, homeless white male in his 40s exhibiting convulsions, high fever, pulse, pressure and vitals in total disarray. The man mumbles the name of a strange drug (Triphase) and then dies.
Soon after, Luthan discovers the man's body is gone. And all computer evidence of the patient being admitted to the hospital, including the autopsy report have been deleted. When Dr. Luthan begins to investigate, he is told to forget the incident by his superior, Dr. Jeffrey Manko (Paul Guilfoyle).
Luthan refuses to drop the case and with the help of nurse Jodie Trammel (Sarah Jessica Parker), he continues his enquiries about his lost patient. Suddenly. Guy's life is turned upside down. His home is ransacked, he is arrested for possession of (obviously planted) cocaine and he loses his medical license.
Eventually, Guy comes across a community of 6000 men living beneath Grand Central Station who knew the homeless man who died in Luthan's emergency room. The healthy among them are being used as guinea pigs, because if they die, they won't be missed.
While below the surface of the city, Guy is pursued through tunnels by armed agents (Hare and Burke) who shoot and wound the curious physician.
Soon after, Guy wakes up in a hospital bed paralyzed from the neck down. It is here he learns of an organization headed by eminent neurosurgeon Dr. Lawrence Myrick who performs illegal spinal experiments on homeless men as he seeks to find a cure for paralysis.
So far, most of the homeless men have died, but Myrick uses the logic that if some people have to die to find a cure, then it is well worth the effort. Myrick tries to recruit Guy to work with him, but Luthan refuses and calls the doctor a murderer.
|Dr. Myrick:||People die everyday. And for what? For nothing. What do we do? What do "you" do? You take care of the ones you think you can save. Good doctors do the correct thing. Great doctors have the guts to do the right thing. Your father had those guts.|
|Dr. Luthan:||Those men upstairs, maybe there isn't much point to their lives. Maybe they are doing a great thing for the world. Maybe they are heroes. But they didn't choose to be. You chose for them. And you can't do that, because you're a doctor, and you took an oath. I don't care if you find a cure for every disease on the planet! You tortured and murdered those men upstairs, and that makes you a disgrace to your profession!|
In the film's climax, Guy escapes from his bed and heads to the lobby, where Luthan is confronted by two armed men and Dr. Myrick who uses a crippled woman named Helen (Diana Zimmer) as a visual aid to further reason with Guy about the ethics behind his experiments. Helen has not walked in 12 years, but Myrick pleads that if his research continues, he can cure the woman and everyone like her. Luthan refuses to join his bold but murderous scheme.
Luckily, for Guy, Myrick is accidentally killed by one of his own security personnel (David Morse) and the whole bizarre event comes to a close.
As the truth is told, Guy gets his life back and he is awarded a fellowship in neurology. Then Dr. Myrick's wife hands over her husband's research documents, and tells Luthan, "My husband was trying to do a good thing, but in the wrong way."