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Psychic Surgery

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The Power of Love involves magically grabbing someone's heart to kick-start it, right?

Despite what TV teaches us, medicine isn't always clean, pretty and reliable. It can be messy, and surgery is no picnic. There's also the risk to life, need for equipment and a sterile environment, aftercare, and a doctor to perform it. Some characters luck out though: their Hero Insurance covers psychic surgery.

Rather than open up the patient, the "doctor" sticks their hand into the patient, roots around, and then pulls it out with the problem well in hand. The best part? No scars, barely any blood, and a complete and instant recovery! The doctor may be using Psychic Powers (hence the trope name), incredibly advanced technology, a biological ability of their own, or outright magic. Hence the quotations around the word doctor earlier; the healer in question may not have any sort of medical degree, relying entirely on instinct or arcane/psychic training. Which is going to make any medical care when they're Brought Down to Normal... interesting.

This far more invasive form of Healing Hands can, however, be used to harm. Badly. A healer without a Hippocratic oath may pull out a spine to stop an attacker or squeeze the heart to interrogate. Heck, being able to root around inside a person without surgical implements lends itself to so much Squick it's best not to think of it. (Which, of course, means someone has.)

Claiming to have this ability is stock-in-trade for the Fake Faith Healer.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A self-healing version of this is used by the villainess Lucifer in Angel Cop. She reaches inside her own body to set some broken bones; she's also seen plunging her fingers straight into an enemy's head.
  • A fellow with this ability shows up in Black Jack; he tries to claim the moral high ground over Black Jack, but it backfires because he didn't ask the right questions.
  • One of Tyki Mikk's powers in D.Gray-Man, where he kills exorcists by pulling their organs out. And he also almost kills Allen Walker by putting his flesh-eating pet butterflies into his chest to bite a hole in his heart.
  • Used as both a weapon and a healing technique by medical ninja like Tsunade on Naruto. They can create chakra scalpels around their hands which can cut inside their enemy's body while leaving the skin intact.
    • Sakura demonstrates emergency battlefield psychic surgery by cutting a slit in Naruto's ribcage, reaching inside his chest, and performing a cardiac massage to keep him alive.
  • Trafalgar Law's Op-Op Fruit from One Piece gives him an ability that is similar to this, although limited to a space he himself conjures called Room. The power is very close to Reality Warper status, being able to mess with people's bodies through medical operation techniques that don't hurt or kill, most of the time.
  • In the anime of Shaman King, Faust VIII uses this to torture Manta. In the manga? He cut him open. After his Heel–Face Turn, he does this again to save a grievously wounded Ren.
  • Helena and Berna from The Voynich Hotel can do this, as they're a centuries-old witch (Helena) and a re-creation of said witch's sister (Berna). It certainly comes handy when one needs to either put back together the limbs of a girl who's been torn apart, relieve a hangover, or heal the injuries of a man who was subjected to Cold-Blooded Torture.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batman: Hush, Batman asks Superman to use his X-ray vision to confirm something he suspects—that someone has implanted a microchip at the base of his skull. Batman tells Clark to get rid of it, and he uses his heat vision to fry it without damaging the rest of him. Bruce endures, but the reader can see that it hurts.
  • In Elfquest, the healers' powers. The negative use is also shown, with corrupted former healer Winnowill, who creates twisted monsters through shaping them against their will. However some, like Tyldak (who she gives wings) asked her to do it.
  • Pictured above: In Green Lantern, Star Sapphire corps member Miri did this between the hearts of two lovers simultaneously, linking the heart of Soranik Natu to restart Kyle Rayner's, who had just died.
  • In the X-Men spinoff trade X-Men Legacy uber-powerful telekinetic and Knight Templar Exodus uses this to save Charles Xavier after Bishop subjected him to a Boom, Headshot! at the end of Messiah Complex. Despite being barely alive and most of his brain matter being reduced to pulp, Exodus was able to heal Xavier completely by telekinetically reassembling his brain atom by atom.

    Fan Works 
  • A Diplomatic Visit: Done in an unusual manner - in chapter 6 of the second sequel, Diplomacy Through Schooling, Starlight explains that her Cutie Mark removal spell involves using precision magic to remove the specific magic of a pony's mark and replace it with a different one. Twilight even describes it with the trope name.
  • In The Matrix and Supernatural slashfic crossover Hunting Series during the second part The First Hunt Smith uses this to heal Neo who gets badly injured because of a vampire after the hunt with Dean goes wrong.
  • This is Dr. Gentle's unique trick in the Triptych Continuum. Unicorns in the Continuum are limited by the rule of differentiation: a unicorn cannot use their telekinesis to move anything that is completely enclosed by something else. Gentle, however, has discovered the Differentiation Exception, a field tuning that lets him telekinetically manipulate an unborn foal inside the mother's womb. This talent has allowed him to save hundreds of lives and made him a minor celebrity. It's later revealed that this talent actually lets him completely ignore differentiation, letting him do things like reach into an enemy's chest and squeeze their heart.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Constantine (2005), Lucifer removes John's lung tumors this way.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the head bad guy removed the hearts of his sacrifices this way, without killing them.
  • At the end of Man on the Moon, Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) travels to the Philippines to have his inoperable lung cancer treated by a man claiming this ability. He starts laughing hysterically when the "surgery" starts, apparently realizing it's just a trick. It doesn't work, clearly, as the next scene is of his funeral. Sadly Truth in Television-many people in the '70s and '80s, often, like Kaufman, with terminal diseases, were defrauded by such con men in the Philippines.
  • The Matrix Reloaded ends with Neo removing the bullet from Trinity's body by phasing his hand through it, and then restarting her heart by directly squeezing it. He's able to do this because they're inside a computer simulation and he can basically hack it.
  • Penn & Teller Get Killed has a long sequence where Penn and Teller expose a fraud faith healer by recreating his act. The faith healer tracks them down and kidnaps them, threatening to kill them for costing him business, but it all turns out to be Teller's prank on Penn.

  • In the Bas-Lag Cycle, Biothaumaturges use a combination of magic and plain old Mad Doctor surgery to "Remake" people with mechanical components or animal transplants. The magic side comes to the forefront when one practitioner answers a threat by starting to shove his hand into a man's chest like wet sand.
  • The Black Magician Trilogy's healing magic works precisely this way - by making skin contact and re-arranging internal organs, putting bones together, and flushing out poisoned blood via the nearest available cut made by the healer. Using it offensively is theoretically possible, but wizards have access to far easier ways to kill non-wizards, and conscious wizards can easily maintain an 'inner shield' that blocks it, so in practice, it isn't done. Then the Sachakans invade and turn out to, while in possession of immense raw magical strength due to their use of Blood Magic, never have developed the healing technique... meaning they don't know to keep up the inner shield.
  • The protagonist in The Boy Who Reversed Himself does this reaching through the fourth dimension, but does incisions to cover up her secret.
  • In the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Book of the Still, the Doctor is rendered Brainwashed and Crazy by a device that's been inserted into his brain. Fitz is shortly thereafter rendered conveniently intangible (among other things), and the Doctor instructs him to remove the device for him. Fitz is then somewhat perturbed to find his hand covered in slime, and the Doctor thanks him "for not taking a bigger handful", which one supposes must mean the Doctor is now undeniably brain-damaged.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology, Sharers heal injuries and maladies through the Dream Weaving of narcomancy by leading the patient into a dream that symbolizes their affliction, empowering it with magical dream-humours, and helping them resolve the dream in a way that represents them being healed. In one tricky case, Hanani heals a disemboweled soldier by getting him to let go of his Survivor's Guilt.
  • The Bergmann surgeons in Stephen L Burns' Flesh And Silver purposely have their arms removed in order to practice this.
  • In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Fernanda del Carpio maintains contact with a group of supposed "psychic medics" who tell her that they'll telepathically operate on her. At some point, after arranging her room in a specific way and leaning down on her bed, Fernanda feels someone pressing a cold handkerchief to her mouth and passes out. When she wakes up she has a big ass scar on her torso... and there's a letter from the "psychic medics" near her table, saying that they did operate on her but the only thing they found wrong was a simple uterine problem that could be easily solved by a pessary. Turns out, Fernanda was so prudish while describing her symptoms, she misguided both the psychic medics and herself into believing her illness was something way worse.
  • Gerard the Lightbringer from Seekers of the Sky cures cancer by removing all bad cells from a body with his Word (a psychic power that allows to store and retrieve any objects in another dimension; for the rest of humanity, though, it's impossible to store still living objects using their Words). Notably, he is himself unaware that he is using the Word and believes that God cures his patients using him as a conduit.
  • Used in The Sharing Knife books for very delicate work (like nerve damage), some internal injuries, or when the one coming to aid is both really desperate and out of all other options. Ground manipulation can also be used offensively, such as when Dag ground-rips a section of a rogue Lakewalker's spinal cord, paralyzing him from the neck down.
  • Wearing the Cape: While it's never described in too much detail, Chakra and some other mentalist Breakthroughs can perform something called psychic surgery. It's more effective than ordinary surgery, and more importantly it bypasses most forms of Super-Toughness, allowing it to work on people who can't get normal surgery.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in 1000 Ways to Die. An episode featured one of the aforementioned Filipino con men of The '80s and The '90s, pulling the "psychic surgery" scam on his townspeople by pretending to perform miraculous healing while soaking up their money. Karma eventually caught up with him when he tried it on a leper from whom he caught the disease....
  • Andromeda: After Harper gets infected with Magog larvae, he runs into a beautiful woman who is able to use a tesseract generator to reach into his stomach and pull one out, then offers to remove the rest if he gives her some valuable information. Instead, he disables her and steals her tesseract to do it himself, but finds he can't if he's in the tesseract himself.
  • Angel had the evil form, the psycho psychosurgeon in "I Fall to Pieces".
  • Michael Palin sees a "real" demonstration of psychic surgery by a Philippine con man in Full Circle.
  • In Heroes, Sylar heals Charlie's brain clot with telekinesis.
  • Houdini & Doyle: Houdini fakes this on a man, convincing him he's been "cured" of his stomach pain.
  • Seen in an episode of The Outer Limits (1995).
  • In Riget, this is how will Dr. Bondo lose his precious tumor.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In "The Gift", Kes uses her psycho-kinetic powers to destroy a Borg implant that's threatening to kill Seven.
    • In "Revulsion", a homicidal hologram uses this to attack B'Elanna Torres, thrusting a hand into her chest to puncture her heart.
  • James Randi appeared on The Tonight Show to demonstrate the hoax to Johnny Carson. He pulls out several pieces of chicken guts and jokingly puts some "back in" because the patient would need them.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In the story "Quarantine", a man is awoken from cryogenic sleep after 300 years and has a tumor healed in this manner because technology has reverted to pre-Industrial Revolution levels after a nuclear holocaust. In order to avoid history repeating itself, mankind swore not to rebuild as they had been, devoting their energies to mental and psychic research instead.
  • The X-Files: In the episode "Milagro", a psychic surgeon uses his ability to murder.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Powers of this name existed in the 2nd and 3rd editions of Dungeons & Dragons. They couldn't heal hit point damage but could fix auras, trauma, curses, implanted compulsions, and so forth.
  • A skill associated with Blue mana in Magic: The Gathering, including a card with that name exactly. (Though that card is less the usual version of this trope, and more Mind Rape.)
  • In Vampire: The Requiem the vampires brainwashed by the VII covenant have the ability of "Psychic Surgery", which allows them to heal injuries in themselves and others by phasing their hands through flesh... or cause minor brain lesions to help brainwash other vampires into their covenant.

    Video Games 
  • Discussed in Dragon Age II: Isabella wishes Fenris had been on hand when her men got in a fight a week out from port and one of them wound up with a knife blade broken off in his shoulder, and his phasing powers would have allowed him to remove it easily. Fenris, however, much prefers to use his powers to crush internal organs, normally those belonging to slavers.
  • In Fate/stay night, Kirei Kotomine is known for being particularly skilled at psychic surgery, and he taught at least the basics to Rin. While his techniques can be used to kill people, they require too much time and concentration to use in combat. Prior to the events of the story, Kotomine uses these abilities to steal the Command Spells of Lancer's Master and transfer them to himself, and in the Heaven's Feel route he also uses them to tend to Sakura. In the later "all-ages" versions of the story, some "energy transfer" scenes that were originally performed through sex are replaced by Rin using psychic surgery to transplant part of Shirou's Magic Circuits to Saber (Fate), or part of her own Magic Crest to Shirou (Unlimited Blade Works).
  • The Medic from Team Fortress 2 uses the "advanced technology" variant, combined with Worst Aid. This man performs open chest surgery with his bare hands on a conscious patient (who assists in the procedure by holding his ribcage open), replaced said patient's heart after a "modification" he made caused the first one to explode, left a live bird inside someone's body cavity, and lost his medical license after removing a patient's entire skeleton... yet his ability to give the target of his medigun a temporary healing factor makes him vital to a team's success.

  • Used several times in Dominic Deegan, particularly when Azula had a stone of concentrated evil in her stomach removed by another orc who plunged his hand straight into her, leaving her unharmed.
  • Mentioned but not used in The Dragon Doctors, a team of magical doctors. They were discussing possible options for removing an all-consuming sentient cancer from a patient. The problem was that psychic surgery requires bare hands, so getting rid of it with psychic surgery was out of the question.