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Worldbulding: Medicine

No matter where your cast is located, past, present, or future, there are illnesses and injuries. 

Who were the medical practitioners? 
Did they have herbalists, medicine men, pharmacists, pathologists, or apothecaries? Did they have neurosurgeons and cardiothoracic specialists?

Did they receive some form of payment?

Did they have badges, uniforms, hats, or other indicators of position?

Were they unionized or controlled by a governing body?

What is the hierarchy of power?

What were their working conditions? Were they operating on their kitchen table, a tent, or a futuristic hospital?

Do they have degrees, licenses, specialties, or awards and honors?

How much knowledge did they have about diseases, viruses, and bacteria? Did they believe in “humours” or other explanations for terms and illnesses? Did they have cures for them? What diseases did they fear? What had they eradicated?

What unusual treatments did they use? Different times and places used rituals, chanting, praying, accupuncture, cupping, massage, reflexology, trephination, bleeding, leaches, herbs, poultices, tinctures, powders, and poisons.

From penicillin to vaccines to antidotes, what did they have at their disposal? Do they have advanced pharmaceuticals that can do things not currently possible?

Did they have cellular augmentation (physical or mental), DNA grafting, genetic tinkering, growing things from stem cells, cell regeneration, vaccines, micro-tracking devices, mechanical or cyborg parts, nanoparticles, etc.?

What medical tools did they have? From scalpels and needles to surgical instruments, microscopes, otoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, to sutures. What did they know about disinfection?

Vision: Did they have glasses, glass eyes, contacts, implantable lenses, Lasix, augmentation of some form?

Did they have x-rays, scanners, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, thermal imaging, bioscanners, or other specialized technology?

Did they have tooth-pullers, professional dentists and hygienists, fillings, crowns, false teeth, braces, implants, or future technology?

Did they have psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, psychics, mediums, bone readers, mind readers, asylums, rehabilitation facilities, etc.?

What did they know about cleanliness, diet, hygiene?

Do they have hospitals and/or emergency centers?

Do they have old age or advanced care facilities?

How did they treat and cope with the disabled, deformed, and otherwise challenged individuals? Were they compassionate or cruel? Supportive or disgusted?

Did they have embalmers, morticians, funeral directors, burial specialists, crematoriums, graves, graveyards, mausoleums, etc.? What did they do with the dead: burial, cremation, etc?

Do they have birth certificates or records? Do they have death certificates or records? In the past they utilized the family bible, town rolls, church rosters, etc. Then they started taking the census and people began researching genealogy.

In your fantasy worlds do creatures dissolve or disappear? Do they still have cemeteries or pyramids or elaborate mausoleums? Do they believe in souls or life after death, reanimation, or reincarnation?

In the Outlander time travel series, the character Claire is a nurse/doctor in the future and uses her information in the past.

Suggested references:

1. The Cambridge History of Medicine by Roy Porter
2. The Medical Book: From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine by Clifford A. Pickover
3. Ancient Medicine (Sciences of Antiquity Series) by Vivian Nutton
4. The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine by Shigehisa Kuriyama
4. Physicians, plagues and progress: The History of Western medicine from Antiquity to Antibiotics by Allan Chapman
5. Famous Chinese Medicine Physicians in History (Journal of Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture) by Pharm Tao
6. Ancient Indian Herbs by Sharlene Snow
7. Ancient Herbal Remedies by Carmen Mckenzie
8. Latino Folk Medicine: Healing Herbal Remedies from Ancient Traditions by Anthony DeStefano
9. Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism by Stephen Harrod Buhner

Next week, we explore transportation.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.

Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at  

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