Poor and homeless people in America have long been viewed as disposable. In Extreme Measures they are pawns in a Faustian doctor's quest for a medical breakthrough.

ER physician Gary Luthan (Hugh Grant) tries unsuccessfully to save the life of a patient in convulsions. Then the deceased man's body mysteriously disappears along with the medical file containing all his test results. When Luthan tries to investigate, someone plants cocaine in his apartment and he is suspended from the hospital.

His attempt to figure out what is going on leads him underneath the streets of Manhattan where hordes of homeless and dispossessed people live in secret. They, it turns out, are being used as guinea pigs — against their wills — by Dr. Lawrence Myrick (Gene Hackman) for his experiments on growing spinal nerves.

This medical thriller written by Tony Gilroy and directed by Michael Apted not only zeroes in on the shameful treatment of poor people, but it compels viewers to consider some troubling and serious moral issues involving advances in medical science.