"Who needs a real doctor when you got my machines and their scary needles?"
In The Future
or sometime soon
, you won't need a steady hand to heal people, some machine is already doing it for you. In a futuristic setting there will be machines that fix human bodies automatically. If a human doctor is participating in it at all, he will only press buttons and won't even touch a scalpel.
The appearance of these machines can range from complex apparatus to seemingly magic
Note: There is a difference between this and Save/Heal points in video games. Unless the healing effect is referred to In-universe, it's an Acceptable Break from Reality.
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Anime and Manga
- In Dragon Ball Z, we have the healing tanks used by Freeza's forces.
- In Gall Force, when Lufy is brought into the analysis station operated by Spea, they just move her into a chamber and press some buttons to restart her heart from a state of suspended animation. Spea mentions offhand that there are several injuries that may require organ replacement.
- The Law of Ueki has Heavenly Beasts that release a healing machine which fully restores anyone inside it for exactly 10 minutes. However, if the healing process is interrupted in any way and the machine is damaged, the person inside it will die.
- The Empire Strikes Back. The scene where Luke is in the bacta tank (transparent tube filled with liquid) being attended to by droids after being rescued from freezing to death. A droid injects something into the tube (presumably some kind of drug).
- In The Fifth Element, the machine used to "repair" Leeloo. It actually reconstructs her from what is essentially a bone fragment containing living cells.
- Idiocracy has semi-automatic medical stations. The probes have to be inserted by person. Brain Bleach happens when that person got confused on which probes should be used on which hole...
- Prometheus has one which also serves as a Chekhov's Gun. Dr. Shaw has to hastily have it perform a rapid C-Section to remove the rapidly growing alien fetus. All while she was awake and not well-anesthetized. Interestingly, the machine is depicted as having limited surgical scope: Shaw initially requests a caesarian but is denied as the machine is calibrated for male patients. She quickly thinks to request an abdominal foreign body removal instead.
- A version is seen in the original Alien movie as well — despite taking place later in the timeline, it's not efficient enough to identify the alien growing inside a crewmember, though that may have been due to deliberate sabotage...
- Also, it could be the difference between the version sent on a $2 trillion dollar exploration mission and the version sent with a bulk freighter.
- The novelization of Alien actually calls it "the autodoc" by name.
- The movie Starship Troopers places an injured Rico in a nutrient tank with automated metal hands mending his thigh wound.
- Elysium: The medical pods are the closest thing the future has to a Panacea. They can heal every disease known to man (as stated in Armadyne's ARG website), cancer, broken bones, and leukemia. They're so powerful that they can even repair Kruger's face, most of which was blown off with Max's grenade.
- Larry Niven's Known Space
- The setting has coffin-sized autodocs (the person is simply placed inside) that can pretty much fix anything. The only requirement for it to restore someone to perfect health(including resetting age) is that they be alive on entry - and even that has plenty of wiggle room. Beowulf Shaeffer survives being decapitated thanks to a good autodoc.
- Short story "The Ethics of Madness". Small desk autodocs can't repair injuries, but they can test blood samples and inject needed vitamins and drugs.
- The Liaden Universe adopted the Niven model, although later books in the series imply that they are at least partially Lost Technology.
- The Andromeda Strain has a fancy couch which performs all the blood tests and immunizations the staff of Project Wildfire require - all powered by the height of 60s computer technology.
- Neal Asher's The Polity has autodocs, these devices range from breadbox sized to as tall as a man, and all unerringly designed to look quite disturbing when they are active; more often described as a cross between a chrome Samurai and a cockroach with far too many limbs. They literally slice you open and perform major surgeries - usually whilst the patient is conscious - and seemingly can repair most life-threatening injuries, as well as remove tumors, perform cosmetic repairs to facial injuries, weld bone and cellular material back together, and can even manufacture replacement parts if required.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe provides more models of medical droid and more details on their advantages and disadvantages: medical droids can have a near-limitless knowledge of sentient species to let them heal the massive variety of patients in the galaxy, and they often have a precision that only a machine could have during surgery. On the flip side, their bedside manner often left something to be desired and led to patients not trusting a droid to operate on them and very few droids (such as the 21B from The Empire Strikes Back'') being intelligent enough to deal with unforeseen complications and side effects.
- Homes in Robert Reed's Great Ship universe usually have an Autodoc. However, the autodocs serve mostly as a way to repair mutated genes - humanity's emergency genes can repair most blunt trauma if the body has enough spare mass (fat, muscle).
- Andre Norton's novel The Time Traders. One of the devices on an alien ship is a cradle filled with a healing jelly. Spending time in the jelly quickly cures all wounds you've taken.
- Harry Harrison's Deathworld trilogy. Jason dinAlt has a medikit that diagnoses injuries and illnesses and automatically injects the proper drugs to treat them.
- In "Warrior" by Gordon R. Dickson features a Medical Mech - a mobile dog-sized device with metal-tentacles that will automatically provide medical aid when it senses anyone's heartbeat is in trouble.
Live Action TV
- In the Doctor Who two-parter "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances", a nanotechnology designed to heal, creates some of the most potent scares in the new series up to that point.
- The Immortality Gate (not named by its makers) is similar in that Bad Things™ happen when you give it the wrong template. So don't let The Master get his hands on one... oops.
- Also, In "The Curse of the Black Spot", the Siren.
- And in "The Girl Who Waited", the Handbots.
- Goa'uld sarcophagi in Stargate SG-1. These are so effective that they can bring people back to life (at least, those who are recently considered dead by He's Dead, Jim standards. We don't know just how dead you can be; there may be a difference between someone who was recently shot and someone dead for years or reduced to Ludicrous Gibs.) and most of the cast would not have lasted very long without one lying around (and not well-guarded) during Goa'uld encounters.
- However, there's a downside. If you're already in good health, they start making "improvements." Unfortunately, addictiveness and megalomania come with that package, to the point where the non-evil-overlord branch of the species avoids using them. For some reason, after we learn that it's bad news if used when healthy, it begins to be treated by the cast as if it's evil no matter what. You would really think the Tok'ra and the SGC would keep one nearby and just not let people who weren't injured play with it (and give one to Atlantis) but of course that would solve too many problems too easily.
- The Ancient technology its based on, which resembles a cube small enough to carry two-handed, heals anything near it when activated. Unfortunately non-Ancient corpses tend to come back as regenerative zombies.
- Look Around You brings us Medibot, the first ever machine qualified to automatically perform surgeries. One of the hosts decides to test this new technology on himself by having it give him a facelift...the results of which, to put it mildly, suggests that Medibot is still not quite suited for life-saving surgeries.
- Technically, the Medical Holograms of Star Trek is this. Of course, if you keep them running for long periods of time they tend to end up as persons, they still have use of biologicals helping out (as nurses, if not necessarily as doctors), and due to the whole hologram thing they look like a human doctor and need the same tools as a human doctor to do medicine. Still, they are machines (holo-emitters combined with a complicated program) designed to heal people without any doctor to help out.
- Grey's Anatomy: One episode has one of the doctors use a robot to perform surgery. See the Real Life section below.
- Gadgets supplement.
- The Autopepper was a device worn on the body. If the wearer fell unconscious, it would inject a stimulant that could bring the wearer back to consciousness and help the wearer recover lost STUN and BODY damage.
- The Quikfix Autodoc Unit was installed in superhero headquarters and villain/agent bases. It automatically used the Healing power on any injured being placed inside it.
- Several adventures had medical facilities operated by the base A.I. as standard equipment in super headquarters/bases.
- The Classic supplement Merchants and Merchandise by Paranoia Press had the AutoDoc Independent Medical Treatment Center. It could perform first aid, minor operations and dental work, diagnose diseases, and inject drugs and antitoxins as needed.
- In the Mongoose version Autodocs are one of the basic classes of robot and often installed on ships.
- Buck Rogers In The XXVc (25th Century). One item of technology in the game is an Autosurgery that can perform any type of surgery needed.
- The Morrow Project
- When pressed against a wound or the skin, a medkit will automatically read the patient's vital signs, treat small wounds, close major wounds and inject/spray antitoxins, antibiotics, coagulants, pain relievers, sleep inducers or stimulants as necessary.
- Med Units were large enclosed beds with medical support equipment. They had a biocomputer which performed automatic diagnosis and treatment.
- Shadowrun: Many medical devices are run either on automatic or by remote.
- R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk
- Supplement Home of the Free. The Automedic is put on top of a patient and immediately goes to work: diagnosing problems, stabilizing the patient, treating wounds, injecting drugs etc.
- Pacific Rim Sourcebook. The Japanese Type 15 MBT (main battle tank) has a built-in Auto-medkit for its crew.
- The Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Secrets of the Surface World had an Auto-Doctor as a possible Weird Science gadget.
- Laserburn Sci-Fi Combat Rules (1980). When attached to a wounded person, the Automedic device will repair severed arteries, administer needed drugs and so on.
- Genius The Transgression allows characters to build these.
- Mutant Future.
- When placed over a wound and activated, Healing Packs send out a wave of healing radiation that closes wounds, mends broken bones, replaces lost tissue, etc.
- Encasing Military Armors had the Battle Doc 6000 system, which acted like a Healing Pack on the Armor's wearer.
- Regeneration Tanks were filled with a special regenerative chemical that healed damaged organs and wounds. There are rumors about a special kind of Regeneration Tank that can bring people back from the dead if used within 24 hours of death.
- Paranoia has the DocBots, tireless medical personnel of the Alpha Complex intended to see to all the clones' problems. Predictably, they are about as reliable as most Alpha Complex robots at best and stark raving insane at worst.
- "Healing Vats" are the oldest and most common forms of medical nanotechnology in Eclipse Phase. They can regenerate a lost limb in about twelve hours and restore a severed head's body in a week or two.
- Gamescience's Space Patrol (1977) had the Medikit, which was strapped to its owner's wrist or waist and constantly monitored its wearer's well being. When something went wrong with their body, it would inject any needed drugs to remedy the situation.
- Starblazer Adventures, based on the 1980's British science fiction Comic Book. A starship's Med-Bay system included a medical computer system capable of diagnosing and treating injuries.
- Terran Trade Authority RPG.
- The Medsuit is a garment worn under other clothing. It has a VS (Vital Signs) pack that monitors its wearer's blood pressure, heart rate, brain activity and other medical information. If the VC pack detects medical problems in its wearer it can inject appropriate drugs as needed. If the wearer loses a limb or part of one (hand, foot) it will clamp down, preventing further blood loss.
- The MekDoc is a robot designed to perform all kinds of medical procedures on a patient, up to and including surgery. It can diagnose problems, dose patients with drugs, change wound dressings etc.
- Advanced battle armor from the BattleTech universe have built in autodocs; the suit with cauterize wounds, pump the user with morphine, and self-seal the suit against environmental hazards. Clan Elemental powerarmor is famous in-universe for being nigh-invulnerable against infantry weapon, and there's situations where an Elemental will have half of his limbs blown up only to keep fighting.
- 1st Edition Gamma World. When a Medi-Kit was placed over a wound it would take a blood sample, inject any necessary drugs, suture wounds, give verbal directions on how to handle any conditions it could not, and spray on an antiseptic dressing.
- Rolemaster Shadow World setting supplement
- Kingdom of the Desert Jewel. The Bed of Suspension is a magical version that appears in a tomb in the Halls of the Mountain King. It is an intelligent coffin of ruby red stone that can diagnose the injuries of anyone put in it and cast healing spells to cure their ills.
- Jaiman: Land of Twilight adventure "The Tomb of Andraax". The Medical Center has "medbeds": automated surgical/medical facilities that activate when a body is placed in them. They can cure almost injury except severe brain damage or loss of a major body part.
- Phoenix Command
- A Combat Suit will constrict around wounds to limit bleeding and will inject the drug Oxyspan if the wearer is near death.
- Power Armor has the benefits of a Combat Suit plus a built-in Auto-Medic Kit.
- SPI's Universe. A Medical Pod computer can diagnose and treat a patient by itself as if it were an highly skilled doctor.
- In Escape From Terra most households on Mars or Ceres supposedly have one that can repair a shot through the heart if gotten to soon enough. They're illegal on Terra though due to their ban on biotech and nanotech.
- Quantum Vibe has ubiquitous tank-based autodocs.
- A Miracle of Science has this doc.
- Schlock Mercenary had one that was souped up a bit and actually tried to improve its patients, sometimes successfully.
- Lynn Tailor nearly lost her eggs (and more than likely her ovaries as well) due to a faulty Auto Doc in Data Chasers. A REAL doctor showed up and turned it off.
- An actual robotic surgeon already exists. The daVinci Robotic Surgeon◊ is a scary looking machine, but it is capable of doing real surgery. It still operates via human control, but it has lots of automatic functions, and NASA is interested in creating an AI-equipped version for long range space missions, such as a mission to Mars where there wouldn't be a quick option for a return trip home for emergency surgery and it would be inefficient to send several specialists to handle every conceivable surgery.
- That being said, a completely autonomous version of this trope is unlikely to be feasible, if only because humans' anatomy and physiology actually vary quite a bit between individuals. A human doctor would probably still need to oversee operations to take such variations, such as differences in blood vessels' or nerves' branching patterns, into account.
- If a machine is capable of telling blood vessels or neural pathways apart from all the other tissues of the body, it's certainly capable of taking these individual measurements into account.