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The operating table held a cancer patient in critical condition. The surgeon and the anesthetist, clad in perfectly sterile garb looked over him. The patient’s bed was not comfortable; it was a cold, unforgiving steel, covered with foam and cloth. The patient did not need comfort; he would soon be asleep.
“The patient has gone under general anesthesia, no signs of irregularity, beginning surgical removal of tumor — Now making primary incision along the midline. Scalpel.”
“Patient breathing steadily.”
“Incision successful. Tumor located. Cutting.”
The scalpel had made an almost bloodless opening in the patient’s lower abdomen, and now the surgeon could clearly see the tumor.
The tumor was a behemoth. It grew from the patient’s colon as an indiscriminate mass of flesh and dwarfed all of his other organs. The surgeon swallowed his distaste and proceeded to slice away the tumor. Each slice of the scalpel extracted more and more flesh from the patient. The surgeon felt quite like Anubis — slicing and packaging flesh for the afterlife. He loved the feeling of slicing, cutting. A hand with a scalpel was a god-hand, indeed!
“Hey! Watch it!” The anesthetist barked, “You almost sliced clean through his colon. This is an O.R, let’s not make it into a morgue.”
“And you’re breaking protocol! Is this a hospital or a bar?”
“Just pay attention, okay?”
“Sure. Just hand me the suture.”
“Sewing him up already? There’s still some of the growth left. If you don’t do a thorough job, he may relapse. What’s the point of this surgery then?”
“It’s a living. I’ve removed enough, we’re going to suture it now and close him up.”
The anesthetist paused, with the needle and fiber in his hand, and looked back at the surgeon.
“Why’d you choose medicine? You could have done anything, anything at all… so what kept you in medical school?”
“You know, job security, tax benefits—
“Bulls***. What’s the real reason?”
“I told you, now just hand me the needle, the patient’s still open.”
With contempt, the anesthetist handed over the tool, and the surgeon went busily to work.
“What’s the real reason?”
“Shouldn’t you be monitoring something?”
“Vitals are normal.”
“Just make sure they stay that way.”
“Well, if you did your job properly, I wouldn’t have to worry too much about it, would I?”
“So, now you’re trying to push your work onto me? Ridiculous.”
The anesthetist turned his back to the monitor and faced the surgeon.
“Do you even care?”
The surgeon did not answer, but rather, focused his concentration on sewing together the severed pieces of colon. Humans were just tubes, really, what did he care. He might as well have been a plumber. Oh, wait, he did care; he cared about the rush.
“Yes, I do.”
“I’m a god here.”
“Really? That’s a wonderful reason. Let’s finish up.”
“I’m just finishing the final suture… I’ll be done in a second…”
“Yes, I’m done.”
“Ok, let’s just —”
But the anesthetist never finished his sentence. When he turned around to the heart monitor for the patient, there was only a straight, undisrupted green line.
How long had he been under? The anesthetist racked his brain for answers. The last time he was monitoring was only a few minutes ago. He could have been dead for minutes. The anesthetist put his head in his hands and sunk to the floor.
“Gone, has he?” asked the surgeon, who looked quizzically at the anesthetist.
“This surgery is done.”
“And that’s no fault of mine.”
The anesthetist was silent.
“You’re new to this, aren’t you? This,” he motioned at the corpse, “Is why you can’t see ‘these’ as people. If you let yourself get tied up in emotion, you’ll make a mistake. Only the clearest mind should be in the O.R.”
The anesthetist’s throat was clogged with remorse; he could not speak.
“Look, it’s not about saving lives in here, get this straight — we fix people, nothing more. When you see this procedure, you follow it to the letter.”
“Says the man who calls himself a god! Says the man who almost sliced the patient’s colon in half! Don’t act so high and mighty, you’re far from perfect.”
The surgeon was silent.
“Let’s go, it’s lonely in here.”