Science Fiction Story Starters: Future Medicine

Idea 1. Medicine is always getting better. Medicine has been the science of making people comfortable before they die for 2000 years. The main advances of medicine have been in disease control and emergency medicine. Very little can be done for the large majority of things that can go wrong with the human body. Medicine has eased our pains, relieved our symptoms and cured a few diseases, but we still only live to be 75 or so.

This is changing. Medicine in the next 100 years should double it’s ability save lives every 10 years or so until by 2100 there should be no deaths except suicides, accidents and murders.

New diseases will appear. How do we control these? Are they natural, man made or alien? Who will fight new diseases? Who will contract the new diseases?Who will be the last person to die of an incurable disease?

Will doctors be necessary? Will intelligent machines cure everything? What happens if someone programs the intelligent machines to “Do Harm”? Will doctors or drug companies hold out cures in order to keep making a profit?

Will engineered diseases have beneficial symptoms? Will they give the victims higher intelligence, clear skin, bliss, faith, energy, desire to vote republican or other attribute that will benefit another?

Will medicine in the future be chiefly concerned with curing the ailments of the above paragraph?

Will the economics of medicine still be divided between the haves and have-not’s? Will eternal life be expensive? Who gets the cure, the rich or the deserving and who decides who is deserving?

What happens if the lives of many depend on the death of a few?

What happens if we live too long? Will suicide be a good thing? Will the government give tax breaks to dead people? Will it be legal to murder people over the age of 200?

What kind of designer drugs will be available in the future? Will there be something as nice as heroin (if God made anything better, he kept it for himself) but without the side effects?

What will happen to smokers who still crave cigarettes after they are banned? What will the farmers grow when tobacco is illegal? What if there was finally a satisfying substitute for tobacco? Would it still be a nasty dirty habit and would non-lethal smokers still be ostracized?

In 1950 it was noted that penicillin was slowly loosing its effectiveness against bacteria as they began to develop resistant strains. 50 years latter, super bugs are a real problem. How super will super bugs get?

On of my favorite non-fiction books is an oldy but goody called “Rats, Lice and History” by Hans Zinsser. It explains why new diseases will continue to emerge in our crowded society. It gives the historical context for plagues. If you are interested in writing a disease story, read this book first – it is a quick and easy read and most libraries will have a copy.

Idea 2.Medicine in SpaceSpace has its own medical dangers and benefits. Zero gravity is bad for the bones. Low gravity is good for those with weak hearts.

We will find new microbes on other planets which may cause new diseases.

The harsh radiation of space will cause changes to man and germs.

The old age resort of the future might be a space station where the gravity is 1/2 that of earth. This would take the stress off of weakened hears and arthritic knees. Is the Florida of the 22nd century going to be a large space station circling the moon?What happens when the space jockey needs to retire after spending 20 years in space, mostly at low G. Can he come home again? Will he be able to cope with the heavy gravity of earth?

What kind of diseases can we expect to find on other planets? Will there be an amoeba that likes to curl up in some odd place in the human body and cause strange symptoms? What about insects that like to use humans for hosts for their eggs. Actually, you can think of any odd human disease, add a weird twist and get a neat alien disease.

Will there be an alien bacteria which eat metal, plastic or some other important component of a space craft. Since humans are not native to an alien world, it’s unlikely that an alien disease will target them, but it is much more likely that a microbe could extract nourishment from something unexpected.

Super bugs in space will develop faster because the cosmic radiation will constantly be reassembling genetic codes in new and interesting ways. What will the new super bugs be like in space.

Many diseases are environmental. What happens when the environment is sterilized and there is no dirt or pollen or drifting microbes around. The ability of an adult to withstand diseases or avoid allergies is related to a child’s exposure to diseases and allergens. Will spacers be especially prone to disease that terrestrial will not have to worry about? 90% of the native american population was wiped out by European diseases to which the conquering europeans were resistant. Could tuberculosis wipe out a space colony that has been cut off from the earth for a while? Will a space child ever be able to make mud pies on Earth?

Idea 3.Life in a test tubeMedicine can clone humans now. Medicine is designing life forms from scratch. Medicine is using genetic engineering to improve species now. Stem cell research will soon cure a whole gamut of damage and disease.

Medicine of the future will take all of these things to the extreme.

Spare parts. Will organ farms replace organ donors? Will we keep a spare of ourselves in storage in case a part breaks or wears out. Will we be able to clone ourselves and transplant our brains into a young version of ourselves? If so, does this mean murdering our younger clone’s brain? If we can clone ourselves and then transplant the brain, might we not want to clone somebody else for our brain. Will movie stars sell tissue samples for cloning? What will the sex change of the future be? Women might night worry that someone at a party is wearing the same dress. Instead they might worry that another woman is wearing the same body.Genetic Profiling. Will our genes be mapped to the point where each individual knows his good and bad genes? Will genetic manipulation create situations where genes die out? Will it be good idea to keep “wild strains” of humanity to keep genes from dying out. What kind of genetic discrimination will there be when IQ can be predicted by a genetic profile? Nature or Nurture might become a life or death decision. Will there be genetic class structure? When everyone has the same wonderful genetic traits will there be a need for more than just a few people? What are the unknowns of genetic profiling. Suppose there is a mutation that is potentially good – will it be allowed or will it be eliminated just because it is different.

Sickle Cell Anemia offers a resistance to malaria and this is one of reasons that the gene hasn’t self destructed by killing the population it appears in. Lethal genes normally disappear quickly from a population, but some undesirable genes may be a two sided coin. If we eliminate the undesirable trait then we also loose a desirable one. The opposite is true also. We could encourage undesirable traits because they also cause some beneficial trait that we are trying to encourage. What if red hair and green eyes really does make women tend to be jealous?

Organ Donors. What about body donors? What about gene donors (Bill, I’ve always admired your nose – could we give it to our baby?) Suppose someone is discovered to be a universal donor the way that a blood donor is type O negative? Would this person have to hide to avoid body parts dealers. Would murder be easy if you could sell the body to an organ donor company instead of a dog food company? Hey, what about pets parts? How do you get your cat a new tail or your dog a set of working purebred testicles? What about the broken down race horse that gets Sea Biscuits tail and starts winning races?