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When California pathologist Peter Carey accepts new position at a conservative Boston hospital, he is reunited with his old colleague David Tao, an Asian-American doctor. After staff introductions on his first day, Carey invites attractive dietician Georgia Hightower to join him and David for dinner. That evening, while the sardonic Carey flirts with Georgia, David gives him the background on various doctors, including chief surgeon J. D. Randall, a racist whose wealthy family endowed the hospital. Soon after, Georgia helps Carey find a deluxe bachelor apartment and tells him that her husband recently abandoned her and her son. The two then begin a casual affair. Days later, Carey briefly meets J. D.'s daughter Karen, a frightened fifteen-year-old girl, and then has his first encounter with J. D., a talented but abrupt and demanding surgeon, more concerned with his golf game than his patients. That night, Karen dies at the Randall home, apparently from a botched abortion, an illegal procedure. David, who has been secretly performing abortions, is immediately taken into custody for the crime. When Carey visits him in jail, David explains that he began performing abortions after seeing young women mutilated by amateur abortionists. David charges only $25 for the procedure to cover the lab fee, which soon-to-retire pathologist Sanderson disguises to prevent David from being caught. David explains that when Karen asked for the procedure after missing her period for four months, he advised her to have the child. Carey, a maverick, is determined to find justice for his friend and remains undeterred even when police captain Pearson warns him that Karen's mother will testify that Karen told her David performed the abortion. Carey replies that David, an excellent surgeon, would not have done the procedure so poorly. Realizing the odds are against his friend, Carey begins his own investigation and asks Sanderson to take over his duties at the hospital. Sitting in on Karen's autopsy, Carey learns that the blonde young girl had recent weight gain and dark hair growth on her arms and upper lip. The coroner also notes that the abortion was done by someone who had some experience but was not an accomplished professional. Believing that Karen might not have been pregnant, Carey gives a sample of her blood to Dr. Barker to test for pregnancy. Hosting a party that night, Carey flirts with Barker's surly assistant, Angela Holder, a drug addict who Carey believes might be responsible for the recent morphine thefts at the hospital, but Angela eludes his questions. Late that night, Karen's brother, Harvey William Randall, breaks into Carey's home to attack him, admitting that he wants to stop him from freeing David. Carey easily subdues the young man and then learns that Karen attended a private girl's school and that their uncle, Joshua, is also a doctor who performs abortions for the wealthy. Days later, despite J. D.'s insistence that he stop his investigation, Carey seeks out Karen's stepmother, Evelyn Randall, an inhospitable drunk who is more concerned with her social standing than finding Karen's killer. Mrs. Randall is convinced that a $300 check made out to cash found in Karen's purse was meant for David. That night, Carey examines samples of Karen's tissue and deduces that she suffered from a tumor, not a pregnancy. The next morning, Carey interviews Karen's school roommate, Lydia Barrett, who evades his questions. Suspecting that Lydia is hiding something, Carey takes her on a terrifying car ride, refusing to slow down until she tells the truth. Lydia finally admits that she hated Karen for stealing her boyfriend, Roger Hudson. Later, lab work reveals that Karen was not pregnant. Carey then learns that David sent Karen to Joshua after he refused to help her. When Carey confronts Joshua, the insensitive doctor explains that he sent Karen away, telling her to return later for tests. That night, while Carey and Georgia are making love, a photographer snaps their picture through a window, but Carey chases after him and takes the film. Days later, Carey brashly walks into J. D.'s office with a poster-sized print of the revealing shot and states that any attempt to blackmail him into quitting the investigation is pointless. Discovering that Roger works as a masseur, Carey goes to the sleazy parlor where he works and, while Roger is giving him a massage, attempts to provoke him by suggesting that he is supplying drugs to Angela and accusing him of getting Karen pregnant. The impudent and wild-eyed young man denies the charges, but when Roger begins to manhandle him, Carey punches him. Leaving to call the police, Carey is then seriously injured when Roger rams his car into the phone booth. While Carey is admitted to the hospital, Roger seeks out Angela in the laboratory and stabs her, but not before she wounds him as well. Now bloodied, Roger hides in a closet, and when a nurse follows Roger's trail of blood to the closet, he stabs her, too. After Angela is found and sent to emergency, Carey, who has barely regained consciousness, makes a plan with Dr. Murphy and Pearson to trick the drug-addicted Angela into divulging the truth by erroneously informing her that she could die from going "cold turkey" from her drugs. He then offers her a morphine fix in exchange for the truth, telling Angela that if she dies he can easily label it something else and suffer no blame. Panicked, Angela confesses that she killed Karen while attempting to perform an abortion on her for drug money to pay Roger, her supplier, who acted as the anesthetist. Carey then gives her the "morphine," which is only a saline solution. Collapsing from internal bleeding, Carey is given a splenectomy and taken to a recovery room where Roger, still lurking in the hospital, tries to stab him, but Pearson shoots Roger first. After David is freed from jail, J. D. apologizes to Carey for doubting him, explaining that "pride makes for perversity." When Carey and Georgia reunite, she tells him her repentant husband has returned, but Carey suggests that he can provide the love and commitment she and her son need.