Healing the World: Episode 18

Cristal appreciates this short break he's getting while Bibi works with the latest post-changeover case. This one's healthy physically, so it isn't nageric work, just counseling. He hopes no more cases show up, and there are no donors scheduled, so he can relax and let his nager go, since Bibi's office is well-enough insulated not to be a problem.

Cristal unfortunately finds himself reflecting with ~~ annoyance ~~ on how the out-T Gens even now can't seem to give their kids a clue about the positive aspects of life across the border. It's all gloom, all the time.

Cristal tries to let go and let Gen, but fails.

Dr. Tavis walks briskly down the Sime Center's walk, dressed in the suit he wears for house calls, and carrying his bag. He wants to make it clear that he is here on professional business, not private.

Tavis hesitates at the door, one hand raised to knock, then vaguely recalls something he heard about Simes not knocking. He simply opens the door and enters, instead.

Cristal ~~ jumps ~~ as the door opens; he's not used to not being warned by Bibi of someone approaching. He steps quickly to the reception area, sees that it's the Gen doctor, and ~~ relaxes ~~.

Cristal: Welcome, Dr. Tavis. How can I help you?

Tavis doesn't look very happy to see Cristal.

Tavis: I am investigating allegations of misconduct by a young doctor who was supposed to be looking after my patients while I was away, recently.

Cristal raises an eyebrow.

Cristal: I see.

Cristal doesn't.

Cristal: What are these allegations, then?

Tavis: That he failed to provide the agreed-upon treatment to a boy in changeover, and brought him here instead.

Tavis is trying hard to be objective, but the whole situation is an embarrassment to his profession, and that makes him ~~ angry ~~.

Cristal: Well, I understand your concern --

Cristal doesn't.

Cristal: -- but I don't quite see how we're involved. Once the Sime was here, he was a legal adult and able to give his own consent. Which he did. He's upstairs with Hajene Bibi at the moment.

Tavis reflects that it would have been easier on him if the boy had died. He prefers not to think of the boy as a live Sime.

Tavis: What was his state of mind when he arrived?

Cristal: In confidence?

Tavis hesitates.

Tavis: I will not reveal the specifics of what you tell me, but if the boy was treated in an unethical fashion, I must use my knowledge of it for disciplinary purposes. To do otherwise would be an unacceptable risk to future patients.

Cristal reflects on that a while and believes it's acceptable.

Cristal: He was certainly depressed and reluctant, which is common enough. Of course, once he was offered transfer, everything went normally. Afterwards, however, the depression returned, as is all too common in out-Territory Simes.

Tavis: This depression... has he expressed a wish that he had not survived?

Cristal: As far as I know personally, no. I can't say what he might or might not have said in counseling, of course.

Cristal assumes that Tavis will respect the special patient-therapist relationship.

Tavis: Can you tell me what time he arrived here?

Cristal: I can't offhand. Hajene Bibi will know exactly, thanks to her Sime sense.

Tavis: A rough estimate will be fine, for my purposes.

Cristal: I'd say early afternoon, then.

Tavis: Afternoon? You're sure it was afternoon, then?

Cristal: Definitely.

Tavis: I had hoped it was a misunderstanding.

Tavis makes his way to a couch and sits, heavily.

Tavis: The boy's mother brought him to my young colleague in late morning, and it wasn't a time-consuming diagnosis.

Cristal scratches his head.

Cristal: I don't follow you. Why would they wait?

Tavis: I don't know for certain, yet, but I have my suspicions. I've looked after that boy since before he was born, and I doubt he'd have come here willingly.

Cristal: Well, certainly no one was twisting his arm, as I think the expression is.

Tavis: If what I suspect is true, the arm-twisting happened earlier. Over at least two hours.

Cristal: That may be so, but I hardly see how the Sime Center is involved, Doctor.

Tavis: It isn't, except as it can shed light on what happened.

Cristal ~~ relaxes ~~ and becomes somewhat less ~~ defensive ~~.

Cristal: In that case... give me a moment and I'll see if Hajene Bibi is available now.

Bibi is just leaving the new Sime's room, having left him sleeping, with Ghan to keep an eye on him, and Driver within Ghan's call. She zlins Cristal at the bottom of the stairs.

Bibi: What's happening, Cristal?

Bibi has already zlinned Tavis's presence.

Cristal: Dr. Tavis claims that his locum coerced him to come here -- our patient, I mean, not Dr. Tavis. ~~ mildly embarrassed ~~.

Bibi presses her lips together.

Bibi: That would depend on how you define coercion. He definitely wore the boy down at a time he was under extreme stress.

Cristal: Dr. Tavis says the man failed to provide the agreed-upon treatment: the Black Pill, I suppose. ~~ revulsion ~~ By the way, are we still calling him Norbom, or has he picked a new name for himself yet?

Bibi: He's too depressed to do much of anything right now. I suppose Dr. Tavis wants to talk to me, right?

Bibi could use a little help pulling herself together. Being with depressed people is very depressing.

Cristal: I'm afraid he does. You're the doctor, you know. ~~ rueful ~~ ~~ medium support ~~

Bibi: Okay. Let's do it.

Bibi leads the way into the waiting room.

Cristal follows Bibi into the room and moves to the nagerically correct position.

Tavis stands with long-ingrained courtesy to a woman, even one with deformed arms.

Bibi: Good day, Dr. Tavis.

Bibi takes a seat substantially farther than normal conversational distance from the Gen.

Tavis: Good afternoon, Ma'am. I am here investigating allegations of misconduct by my young substitute.

Bibi: Yes?

Cristal pulls a chair to the right spot and listens; he figures if either Bibi or Tavis want a recap, they'll ask for one.

Tavis: Your... colleague... has told me that the boy arrived here in early afternoon?

Bibi: Yes, Dr. Barden brought him here in his... your buggy.

Tavis: The boy's parents left him in my office at least two hours earlier than that. Had the boy said anything about what occurred during those two hours?

Bibi: By the time he arrived here the changeover was substantially advanced. He wasn't in condition to discuss much with us.

Tavis: And since?

Bibi: Most of what he's told me I would have to regard as privileged communication.

Tavis is not unsympathetic, as he has cited privilege himself a time or two.

Bibi would consider confidential such information as that the boy only consented to come to the Sime Center because he feared he might kill the doctor, and only after the doctor gave him a Black Pill to hold. The boy took the pill on the way over, and it turned out to be a placebo.

Bibi realized later that that explained why the boy was relatively calm and cooperative -- it didn't matter to him any more: he expected to die soon anyway.

Tavis: I realize that, but I have a young colleague who may have displayed an unacceptable lapse in ethics, and must be held accountable.

Cristal ~~ offers to increase support ~~.

Bibi: The young man entered the Sime Center willingly and followed our instructions as well as he could under the circumstances.

Tavis: That means little, if the only alternative he'd been offered was to become a berserker. Was it?

Cristal: Death, either way.

Tavis: A condition the boy I knew would genuinely have preferred to life as a Sime.

Bibi: He was desperate not to kill. Most children in changeover feel that way, although in-T, of course, that outcome is so unlikely it doesn't trouble the children as much.

Bibi spreads hands, keeping tentacles sheathed.

Bibi: We don't offer death here. We offer life.

Tavis: The question is, was he prevented from choosing his preferred method for avoiding that?

Bibi: As I said, he entered the Sime Center willingly and has remained here since. I didn't witness events before that.

Tavis tries to squelch his ~~ frustration ~~, as it obviously stems from the same ethics that may be lacking in his young colleague.

Tavis: Ma'am, I have reason to suspect that young Dr. Barden refused to provide the boy with the Black Pill that both he and his parents requested, and coerced him into coming to you instead. I realize that you might view this as a humanitarian act...

Tavis looks pointedly at Cristal.

Tavis: ...but in other contexts, I'm sure you would agree, this tendency to force unwanted treatments on unwilling patients could lead to a great deal of harm.

Bibi: Yes, I do agree with that.

Cristal keeps tight control on his rising ~~ outrage ~~ that Dr. Tavis treats murder as a purely medical issue.

Bibi: However, the only information I have about what occurred before the young man arrived here is hearsay, and hearsay from a young man who has just experienced the most traumatic event of his life.

Tavis: He is the only witness to the crime, if one occurred.

Bibi: You're unable to get credible information from Dr. Barden?

Bibi respects the ability of Gens to discern lies even if they can't zlin.

Tavis: He insists that he acted ethically, but he refuses to account for the irregularities in his story. And in my inventory of medicines.

Cristal: ~~ curious ~~ What happened to your inventory, Doctor Tavis?

Tavis: I'm short exactly one fish oil capsule, which is rather strange, since there is no record of any being dispensed while I was gone. There is also a new ink blotch on the counter where I dispense pills.

Bibi zlins Ghan leaving the young man's room, looking for help.

Bibi: Excuse me, gentlemen, I'm needed upstairs again.

Cristal: ~~ need assistance? ~~

Bibi signals to Cristal that she'll call him if she needs him. She stands, nods politely, and leaves at a fast walk.

Cristal thinks about the "fish oil capsule" and has an insight.

Cristal: You're wondering if Doctor Barden, umm, colored the capsule black?

Tavis: Yes. And then used to it trick the boy into coming here quietly.

Cristal: I don't know if you have any counterpart to this, but in in-T medicine we sometimes give a patient a harmless but ineffective medication; we don't consider that unethical. Sometimes belief can be very powerful.

Tavis: Indeed. I have sugar pills for that purpose. They could never have been mistaken for the Black Pill, however, even with the help of some ink.

Cristal: So perhaps the pill was used merely to calm the boy so that he could come here safely, rather than to deceive him that he was being, umm, "taken care of"?

Tavis: Why the two hour delay, then?

Cristal shrugs.

Cristal: I don't know. The line between persuasion and coercion can be very fine.

Tavis: Yes. And Dr. Barden is known to have very... passionate... opinions on the subject. It is possible that his opinions were passionate enough that he was willing to risk his life and his professional reputation, and disregard his patient's wishes.

Cristal nods slowly.

Cristal: Tell me, Doctor Tavis: would you give a Gen patient a Black Pill if he asked for one?

Tavis: I have done so, a few times. Most were terminal cases, who feared a long, painful death.

Cristal: Now there our ethics differ. A channel can do a lot to ease death, but would never hasten it.

Cristal is too young to know anything about the Secret Pens and the semi-juncts.

Tavis: In most of those cases, young man, the Black Pill actually prolonged life.

Cristal: Sorry, I don't understand.

Tavis: A patient facing a very unpleasant death is inclined to look for alternatives. Surely that's true on your side of the border, as well?

Cristal: Ah. As I say, we can do a great deal to make death, not pleasant certainly, but easier. Our patients aren't faced with such a... stark alternative. In any case, what if your patient has alternatives to a painful death? What then?

Tavis: You are talking about changeovers, I take it?

Cristal waves his hand.

Cristal: In general. Say, for example, that the alternatives are a painful death or a risky, mmmmmm, surgical procedure.

Cristal is proud of his ability to contemplate surgery as a serious alternative.

Tavis: I had a patient in such a situation, once. She had the choice between almost certain death in a few weeks, and an experimental procedure that could have left her paralyzed, which would also have cost her family everything.

Cristal nods sympathetically.

Cristal: Did you offer her the Pill?

Tavis: Yes. She agreed to the surgery, and I delivered her second child a few weeks ago.

Cristal smiles in relief.

Cristal: I'm very glad to hear that. However, in all these cases the patient is actually facing death from inside, as you might say; she will die if nothing is done. That seems to me quite different from the case where the death will be externally imposed.

Tavis reaches into his bag and pulls out a vial with one large, black capsule.

Tavis: The Black Pill isn't an instrument of murder. When I give one to a patient, they know exactly what it is.

Cristal: Oh. No, that's not what I meant.

Cristal does his best to look at the Pill without flinching.

Cristal: Changeover is not, in and of itself, a terminal condition. It becomes so only because of the actions of others.

Tavis: Or the wishes of the patient. Since you opened this Sime Center, I have offered it as an option, to both the patient and parents. Almost all of the patients chose this.

Tavis looks at the vial once more, then replaces it in his bag.

Tavis: The ones who were willing to come here, came here directly, you see.

Cristal sighs and nods slowly.

Cristal: I suppose so.

Tavis: Perhaps it would be possible for me to speak to the boy?

Cristal: I can't make that decision. You'd need to speak to Hajene Bibi when she returns.

Tavis nods, and settles back to wait.

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