Thursday, April 24, 2008

Health Care of the Future

This week our workplace had a “health fair” to promote enrollment in health insurance plans. Not being in the market for coverage, I just went over to look around and pick up free trinkets (pens, pocket first aid kits, etc.). One lady was measuring body fat percentage and BMI with a handheld electronic gadget one holds out in front of one’s body. (Luckily it doesn’t sound an alarm or anything like that.) Undergoing that test made me think of Dr. McCoy’s tricorder. Today we do have devices such as MRI, ultrasound, and the currently popular full body scan. They’re expensive and sometimes inconvenient, though, not to mention (as some women report in connection with mammograms) occasionally uncomfortable to the point of pain. We’re still far from a small, computerized machine that can read out someone’s complete health profile in an instant, or even the Enterprise sick bay’s diagnostic beds (although I imagine the latter are within our technological capability).

Actually, what I want from my medical providers is the painless ray that can instantly, noninvasively repair a cracked tooth, broken bone, or malfunctioning internal organ. And when do we get the much-discussed nanobots that will clean toxins out of our system, kill harmful microbes, and maintain us at the perfect weight for our body type? Or those miraculous gene therapies that will nip congenital illnesses in the literal bud? Or replacement organs custom-grown for transplant into each individual? That is, if we ever manage to overcome the challenge of providing basic health care for all citizens, never mind extending the medical super-science of the future to everyone. Personally, my great fear of infirmity in old age isn’t the illnesses themselves, but the medical treatment. Too bad I won’t live to see those miraculous healing rays. Meanwhile, I’ll just have to go to the dentist later today and the primary care clinic tomorrow and accept the old-fashioned manual intrusion into my mouth and other body cavities.

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