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Advanced Medical Magic

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Today’s topic comes from QSFer Hank T. Cannon:

“How do you handle the social effects of “advanced medical magic” in a fantasy or science-fantasy setting? Are there economic gates preventing access to everyone? Has the legal system evolved to deal with verifiable reincarnations and resurrections? Do intrabloodline intrigues expressly involve ways to make sure old rich granddad stays dead do they can finally inherit (Or is inheritance outdated)? Are afterlives actually counted as part of the population and their inhabitants just another demographic of the planet/nation entity?”

Lots to unpack here – but let’s start with the intersection of medicine and magic – or medicine and science so far advanced that it is indistinguishable from magic.

What Hank’s questions boil down to (according to me – and he may disagree) is what happens in a society when medicine reaches the point where people no longer die, or can be resurrected? What would this do to society? And what limits might there be on this kind of medicine – legal or actual?

1 thought on “Advanced Medical Magic”

  1. Great question. It all depends on the magic, its limitations and how accessible it is.

    In my book, which is fantasy, I base it around the model of healthcare we have today, minus insurance. If you replace an advanced medical degree with magic then you need to have people skilled in practicing it who are willing to do so in exchange for money.

    In the world I created, magic can 100% heal any injury, infection or toxin which is far above what we can do. However I also gave it some limitations– things like cancer, birth defects and mental issues which come from the person’s biological baseline cannot be healed through restorative magic because the problems were already in place. Eliminating disabilities or degenerative conditions (like cancer and dementia) removes a lot of character motivations.

    You also need to look at who controls healthcare. In my world there’s only one field of magic that does this and it’s controlled by the church who hunts down people who practice outside their organization as heretics. This gives the institution a lot of power. Medicine is big business and we shouldn’t always assume people are going to give it away.

    The social impact in my world is that religious institutions wield a high level of power in government. They offer their services to wealthy donors and use a lottery system for those who can’t afford to pay. The net result is that rich people live longer and poorer people die from curable illnesses (much like they do today). I think medicine is a great conversation to have in a sci-fi or fantasy setting because it is so important to society.

    Immortality works really well in societies where people don’t have to work and there’s good population control. If you live forever you can’t really retire until you’re rich enough to earn a living off investments (you will probably outlive the markets too). If you do have to keep working and people keep having immortal children then there’s no jobs and the world gets exponentially crowded quickly.

    The best way to approach this concept is to have it be very limited to specific individuals or classes of individuals (rich people). Resurrection could work better because you can take populations in shifts, or keep some people “on ice”. Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon addresses this concept nicely.

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