The threat from heavily medicated cyborgs

If you enjoy the time travel sort of science fiction story, you may have encountered a protagonist who travels into the past and is forced to accept primitive medical care. Imaging traveling to 1810, getting hurt, and waking to discover that some well-meaning sawbones is bleeding you dry with dirty instruments.

(By the way, it was amazingly hard to get rid of the practice of bleeding patients. I wish I could remember the particulars, but there was a 19th century statistician who collected a lot of data that showed conclusively that patients who had been bled had an alarmingly higher death rate than patients who hadn’t. The medical brotherhood wanted him flayed alive for daring to number-crunch such an ancient and venerable practice.)

Worse, in the past, doctors often had no choice but to start amputating parts of your body that had become infected. For several generations now, antibiotics have made this particular nightmare unusual, at least compared to the 19th century.

Well, if you are a Romantic who yearns to return to the Golden Past when most children died of infections before puberty and childbirth often resulted in the mother developing septicemia and leaving her newborn motherless, you are in luck!

There are too many patients demanding antibiotics for themselves or their loved ones who don’t understand that a cold or flu virus won’t even notice antibiotics, and that sometimes, yes, Virginia, people do die. Wonder why so many hospitals and nursing homes are terrific places to pick up something nasty? They are SEAL training camps for bacteria, where only the strongest survive.

Too many of us would rather turn our loved ones into heavily medicated cyborgs merely to keep their hearts beating indefinitely because, after all, life is exactly like a Disney movie, and, any second now, a miracle will occur, just like in that inspiring story on the Internet.

Yeah, right.

Our overuse of antibiotics has set up a process of natural selection, the kind of thing that pesky Charlie Darwin was always going on about. By saturating the environment with antibiotics, we have successfully evolved bugs that can swim a hundred laps in darn near any antibiotic that exists and go on to kill you without breaking a sweat.

(There is also a huge problem of routinely dosing meat animals with antibiotics—the drugged animals gain more weight and are thus more profitable—but that’s another story.)

Want an idea for a science fiction story? How about a visit to a hospital after the good old days have returned? Hurry! Write it before it becomes mainstream literature.




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