Darwin's Tubercle

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Darwin’s Tubercle

 

By M McEwen

 

 

I qualified as a medical doctor from John Hopkins in the summer of 2011, buried in debt, but buoyant with optimism. Fulfilling my families’ expectations and wallowing in their vicarious pride, I had everything to look forward to. Everything that is, until the quantum computer made my skills redundant.

            I’ll explain, but I can’t take long as I’m expecting a delivery in the next few minutes. Please excuse my digression. Where was I? Right!

Every potential patient has an app on their phone. Before they enter the waiting room, they already have a list of their potential diagnoses, signs and symptoms, treatments, side effects, every possible rare complication, and a list of support groups divided into advocacy groups, pressure groups, and special interest or splinter groups, which in turn are categorized by distance from their homes or work, schedule and frequency of meetings. And, it doesn’t end there, but I won’t bore you with any more of the nitty-gritty minutiae, especially since you probably have some version of the app too—another busy know-it-all.

Is that the doorbell I hear? No. Anyway, as I was saying.

Worse still, should I, as the medical professional on the premises, suggest a personal examination of their body might assist me in narrowing down the realm of possibilities, they balk. How audacious of me to consider physical contact between patient and doctor, albeit separated by a layer of latex, to which they may be allergic. So, I have Nitrile gloves on hand too, not that I ever have the opportunity to wear them.

Hang on a second, someone’s knocking at the door, a delivery guy with a package, some kind of upgrade. Come in. Carry on. Do your stuff. Griselda will help you.

No, my patients prefer all minimally invasion surgery be performed by a robot, remotely, where I engage with a computer in my office, and the robot engages with the body of my patient in a different room, or building, or city. I am once removed from the exercise, banned like a distant cousin who misbehaved at the last family funeral.

Yes, I’ll sign the delivery note, and the release from liability for installation form.

Already I’ve had to suffer the ignominy of an Alexa-like receptionist or rather, my digital assistant, whom I’ve named Griselda after my mother. Griselda is cheaper than a regular employee, available twenty-four hours a day, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year with no need for vacations, time off, lunch hours or potty breaks, nor a pension package. 

What’s more, Griselda is fluent in all spoken languages, authentic in her accents, and gives a convincing performance in Latin which is about as useful as a vestigial tale.

Yes, the password’s written on a post-it note stuck to the corner of the desk.

Things used to be so simple, but now I learn that technically, Griselda is an it, neither male nor female. It is the pinnacle of gender fluidity and mimics any tone of voice. I wouldn’t be surprised if Griselda nudged Dr. Doolittle aside, why should he get special privileges, and spoke to all the animals if not diagnose them too.

Yes, I’ve already approved the upgrade. If you could hurry, I should be most grateful.

Griselda also has a wide variety of emotional catchphrases imitating empathy, but she lacks my bedside manner. My favorite at the moment is, “One thing you can't hide - is when you're crippled inside.” No doubt programmed by some decrepit, anachronistic Beatles’ fan, but it operates like a musical wormhole, endlessly spiraling in my brain, both a threat and a promise. 

Excuse me? What did you say? My services are no longer required? Standard redundancy package? Griselda’s primary physician upgrade is complete?

<<<>>> 

 

 

About the Author: 
Bi-focaled and technically challenged, Madeline and her Significant Other manage their four offspring, one major, three minors, two autistic, two neurotypical, plus a time-share with Alzheimer's. In her free time, she walks the canines and chases the felines with her nose in a book and her fingers on a keyboard.
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