Thursday, April 9, 2015

Medicine in Fiction

My husband is in med school. Our relationship and my interests are such that I tend to help him study quite a bit. This calls for a lot of tricky pronunciation (one of my new favorite words is "phosphotidylethanolamine") and it also means I learn a decent amount of what he's learning.

This had made me more skeptical of any portrayal of medicine and related topics in fiction than I used to be. For example: I've just started watching "The Walking Dead." (I know, I'm so far behind.) There's nothing spoilery here, but in the first season, you see an "MRI" of a walker brain. I had to put the quotation marks there because it is so unbelievably not an MRI. It's not vital to the plot that the MRI be accurate, but it is particularly distracting when you know better.

When I was in marching band, one of our techs said that ever since he had started writing drill, he couldn't sit back and enjoy other bands' shows, because he was too busy analyzing their drill. You probably know the feeling. Whatever your expertise or hobby or passion is, when you encounter it in a show, movie, or book, and it isn't done properly, it's distracting.

I am not nearly as distracted by medical terminology or procedures while reading Stardoc, though, because it's in the future and on an alien planet. Alien anatomy and physiology can be whatever the author wants it to be. Procedures can be very advanced, even things we would currently consider impossible, because who knows what we'll discover between now and when we master interplanetary travel? In fact, there are some jokes that refer to current best practices as antiquated, practically primitive, and they're the opposite of distracting; instead, they're engaging.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, other than perhaps to point out that if you can, you should shut off your expertise switch if you find this sort of thing distracting like I do. And also to show off the fact that I can spell and pronounce words like "phosphotidylethanolamine." (Just don't ask me what it is.)

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