What are the main events of Chapter 34 of Contagion by Robin Cook?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The main events in Chapter 34, though it is a long chapter, are rather few. Richard and Terese awaken in the house in the Catskill with very uncomfortable cold symptoms that, at one point, cause Richard to ask if Jack caught his 1918 influenza virus and, if so, haven't they now got the virus as well.  The important thing here is that this gives Richard a chance to tell us what he expects the strain of influenza is (1918 pandemic strain), where he got it (Alaska), and from what hidden virus "reservoir" (virus resting place) the microbes came (a frozen man who died in 1918).

Another main event is that Richard calls Twin to come do the assassination hit on Jack since neither he nor Terese can bring themselves to do it in cold blood. Twin rejects the job even for three thousand dollars. But, finally, after Richard's third call to him, Twin does promise that someone will be there in the morning to do what's needed. Jack is left handcuffed to the kitchen sink drain pipe for a second night.

"I'll send someone up there tomorrow morning. ... " Twin said. "I guarantee I'll have someone up there to take care of things."

A critical main event is that, since both Terese and Richard are getting worsening symptoms, neither one bothers to go to their beds; both simply sleep on the sofas where they've been suffering all day. During the night, while Jack is trying to device his fourth rescue attempt, he hears the progress of their symptoms as their sneezing, coughing and breathing worsens and enters different, more serious stages of decline.

This is an important sequence of events for Jack and for author Robin Cook. Jack is faced with making a medical (and moral) ethical decision and Cook, as the narrator, gives voice to his personal concerns over medical ethics, a trademark element of his medical mysteries.

Jack recognizes that Terese and Richard are going to die from the virulent flu strain. He struggles to decide (1) whether his medical 9and moral) ethics require him to tell them contagion they have in all probability contracted and (2) whether his medical ethics require him to share his life-saving rimantadine with two willful murderers.

It was an impossible decision. He couldn't choose. But not making a decision was, in effect, a decision. Jack understood the ramifications.

Jack resolves his ethical dilemma by warning them that Terese (soon to be followed by Richard) needs to go to an intensive care unit in a hospital. Thus Robin Cook posits the limits of medical ethics at sacrificing ones own life for murderers while doing what is possible to warn them of and assist them in their medical danger.

The final main event comes at the end of the chapter. "Their swift deterioration was a frightening display of the power of contagion." Terese died on the sofa at 4 a.m. Richard died on the other sofa at 6 a.m.

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