Narrative Medicine Assignment

For my Narrative Medicine and Writing class I wrote a science fiction story about eugenics. I found out that eugenics is not! fun! to! write! about! I felt very sad reading about modern support of eugenics… Which all lead to this story.

The Power of Suggestion

Good morning Cheryl,

There appears to be errors in the new med-bot program. They have stopped suggesting termination to physicians- this is very dangerous! I looked at the last med-bot room entry and your name is listed. Please report what happened ASAP.

  • Kyle McHaven, PhD

Time until system error: 3 hours and 23 minutes


A 34-year-old male reports symptoms of coughing, stuffed nasal pathway, and fever. Reports no history of familial respiratory conditions. Opened the nasal pathway with Flonase, and prescribed Tamiflu…

Physician comments:

Just a normal case of influenza, if only the patient had been normal as well. The entire visit he hyperventilated about chairs for his wedding. I told him to stress about the wedding less and sleep more. He didn’t seem satisfied, but people rarely are when I explain their treatment options.

  • Dr. S. Hankamer

Leaning back in her desk chair, Lois pulled off her latex gloves and eyed the document. “Influenza?” she scoffed, “That can’t be right. People don’t just get a cough. Let alone influenza.” Lois followed a wiki-how tutorial on how to cough in a new tab. She forced the scratchy pull of her throat but laughed instead. Influenza? What absurdity. She clicked away from the folder and sent an email.

Hey Cheryl,

I think I found the folder mentioned in this morning’s meeting. It was on the old Dell in the backroom like you said. There’s a lot on it though. I’m not sure I see the datasheets for the APOE guys. 


Lois Warren

McHaven Lab Assistant

Rutgers School of Medicine

After a half-hour of searching, there had been only one relevant folder, labeled: S. Hankamer Genetic Project. The folder hadn’t been edited in years—which had been promising, as their last APOE e4 experiment was ancient. However, when she had clicked the folder icon, there had only been a long list of text files with increasing number titles, and a few images at the end. None of it had made sense, so instead, Lois had pulled her dark blonde hair into a ponytail and clicked a random numbered file to begin her search for datasheets. The file’s text displayed in a PDF.


A 2-year-old female child came in with her mother. Reported developmental delays in speech. The hearing test showed asymmetrical hearing loss. There was significant inflammation of the tympanic membrane upon inspection. Prescribed ear drops, and suggested a future visit…

Physician comments:

Parents worry so much about children developing normally and not enough about whether their breeding is proper to ensure their child’s future intelligence.

  • Dr. S. Hankamer

Rubbing her temple, Lois read the comments again. Maybe it was some strange coding error.  Med-bots were not known to have this much…personality. And the child was odd as well. Lois grew up normal, her entire generation developed the same. How would a child not just—grow? She clicked away from the pdf and noticed a new email.

Good morning Lois,

Unfortunately, I don’t get out of class until 4:30, could you look through the folder for any datasheets to get a good layout? Also, I forgot my keys. Could you bring them to the Richfield Building at some point? I need to get to the studio to send out the new med-bot programs.

By the way- Happy 16th birthday!

Have a good one,

Cheryl Ebers

McHaven Lab Manager

Rutgers School of Medicine

Lois smiled at the message, it was certainly a good birthday now. In a way, the folder was the best birthday present; it fed her hunger for the unknown. She had never read anything like it. Settled into her chair and prepared to spend several hours in the dusty backroom, Lois clicked the next numbered document.


A 67-year-old female reports lumps on her breast. Upon inspection there is indeed a lump. She reported a family history of breast cancer, but still seemed very distraught by the possibility… “But I am so young!” She told me.  I referred her to the oncology department…

Physician comments: 

Apparently Nadia is an engineer and was upset to not be finished with her current project before this discovery… Engineers always amaze me, so much talent…They are always interesting to talk to, but I could swear each and every one is somewhat autistic.

  • Dr. S. Hankamer

Lois guffawed at the age. Even the oldest person in her family—Uncle Jim—only lived to be 42. Most people were diseased by that point, it was safer for everyone if they were put to rest. 

Just like the other stories, Lois couldn’t believe how authentic they sounded. It was a window into a new world. A world where humans—not robots—calculated the details for a bridge or new product. How wonderful autism must be if these humans, as brilliant and capable as robots, supposedly have it.

It was curiosity, something that she had never grown out of, that made her continue. It was the reason she joined the lab, she had hoped to satisfy her hunger to understand the world. She, of course, wanted to solve the great obstacles of her generation. But in the end, it was mostly the hunger that fueled her. Sometimes it felt like nothing else burned in her the way that curiosity did. Lois continued down the line of numbers, closer and closer to the last four images.


A 25-year-old man reported symptoms of scratchiness within his throat, difficulty swallowing, and pain when speaking. A sample was taken, and showed evidence of streptococcus. Penicillin was prescribed. The patient complained that he had to come in at all…

Physician comments:

Despite his rude nature, I actually am a fan of Salvatore Mani’s recent pieces. Such a shame that his parents did not take proper care while breeding. It is clear by the way he speaks, no eye contact and occasional groans. That condition…such a tragedy for someone so talented… It made me consider… Can they be cured before they even come in? I hesitate to go that distance, but… 

  • Dr. S. Hankamer

Lois looked through several obituaries before finding Mani’s art gallery. The paintings were strange, but the colors were appealing. She could see the artist’s emotions in the painting, and for a second Lois felt like another person. As if she laid in his memories, letting herself feel things she had never experienced before and probably never would.

The ending physician comments again made her pause. It was nothing new— plenty of people made empty wishes. The trouble, Lois thought, was that this didn’t feel like an empty wish. She scanned through the comments in the remaining documents.

I am going to do it. Damn my supervisors. Damn my patients. They do not know what is best for them.

The room felt much larger than it did before. A whole new understanding of the diagrams and their proposal hit Lois, and she quickly became nauseous. “This is not fiction. Oh God,” she covered her mouth with her hand. This was not fiction, nor the ramblings of some broken med-bot. This was an old evil. This was a human’s work, like her own. The outlines of a plan painted the screen; 

My fellow colleagues, I am merely suggesting the best kinds of children best suited for families… I have freedom of speech, and I intend to use it. I have some ideas for the future of patient care… 

Emails and correspondence followed in various languages. Lois watched as the opinions against the ideas were overpowered by the support.

The time is now! The public remains polarized, prime for the suggestion…  

…With the new med-bots- I suggest my new programs, to continue this legacy—getting closer and closer to perfection. It is so close.

Lois had never gotten sick, no one did, but there weren’t that many people alive to begin with. She never saw her parents live past 40. She never learned how to paint or create anything. It started with mental disabilities, and it never stopped. “When will it be me?” She cried. “When will my qualities be imperfect?” When would she be-

The desk chair clattered to the ground as Lois shucked the lab coat off and rushed out of the room to the cool, dark outdoors. She closed her red watery eyes.

Time until system error: 34 minutes

Good evening Cheryl,

Unfortunately, I do not feel fit to continue working in this lab. I could not find any relevant documents on the computer, it is most definitely on a backup drive.

My sincerest apologies,

Lois Warren

Time until system error: 2 minutes

It was midnight when Lois unlocked the med-bot door with keys that she never returned. A large machine next to the dark window hummed as Lois inserted a USB into its blinking port. She watched the LED monitor display: L. Warren Genetic Project and pressed to accept the transfer. If one person could start this, she thought, then one person could damn well end it.