“He was healthy in the morning and dead in the evening,” says Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann. The environmental doctor works at the Helmholtz Institute in Munich and has written a report for the federal government on the consequences of climate change. The man who died in half a day was a roofer. He had been working on black roofing felt all day and was taken to the emergency room with a body temperature of 42 degrees Celsius. “We lost him because the coagulation system stopped working.” Humans are the least able to adapt to heat, explains medical science journalist Eckart von Hirschhausen in his documentary “Medicine of Tomorrow” (ARD media collection). With heat, the sick stay sick, and “it's the end of the road at a body temperature of 42 degrees”.

Shoelaces as an aid

In the documentary, Eckart von Hirschhausen gets to the bottom of three basic medical topics of the future. First: how good is artificial intelligence in diagnostics and treatment. Second: What environmental influences affect health? And third: can genetic engineering promote healing and slow down the aging process? To get straight to the point: the piece running on ARD to coincide with the start of the fourth season of “Charité” set in 2049 is really good explanatory television. When things get too complicated, Eckart von Hirschhausen simply grabs a shoelace and demonstrates the main message with the simplest of means.

Avatar diagnoses in seconds

“Now I'm surprised,” marvels Eckart von Hirschhausen of the University of Marburg. He gave the digital doctor some symptoms, such as tingling hands and hoarseness, and a few seconds later the avatar spits out the correct diagnosis: amyloidosis, a hormonal and metabolic disease. The real patient behind this clinical picture had spent many years moving from doctor to doctor in vain. Hirschhausen is convinced that even 20 students would not have reached this diagnosis right away. The artificial man on the screen – narrow face, dark, split hair – has read a lot of medical literature and apparently knows his stuff very well. Perhaps the virtual doctor will be the solution in a decade, when according to studies, there is a shortage of 11,000 family doctors in Germany and half of rural practices are closed.

Technology makes thoughts transparent

Eckart von Hirschhausen visits a former colleague. Jürgen Reul is an ALS patient. This means that his muscles gradually stop working. The whole thing is done with full consciousness. Jürgen Reul sits in a wheelchair and can only move his eyeball to communicate with the outside world. Up means yes, down means no. “ALS is relentless,” says Eckart von Hirschhausen. “You are confined to your body.” Scientists are trying to use technology to make thoughts transparent. For example, a disc in the brain should translate thoughts into words. Lissy, Jürgen Reul's wife, says: “After such a long time, it would be nice to hear from him, 'Honey, I love you.' Computer scientist Christoph Reichert has now been able to localize the imaginary yes and no in the brain. This is the beginning. He says, “Patients may soon be able to mentally control or communicate with wheelchairs.”

Building a house from clay, linen and straw

Neurologist Simone Schnurer spreads even greater hope. An expert on hereditary muscle diseases at the Charité in Berlin mentions a study in which genetically modified upper arm muscles can be repaired using so-called gene scissors. In a year and a half, it should be possible to even specifically reprogram individual muscles, Schnurer believes. The whole thing works by using genetic scissors, which can cut out the wrong changes in the DNA and replace it with a flawless sequence. Sylvie Borst is also confident. After a record temperature of nearly 40 degrees Celsius in 2003, a spatial planner helped transform an entire district in Paris so that it remained livable even in extreme heat. Instead of reinforced concrete, wood, clay, flax and straw were used in the construction of the house, and the landscaped park reduces the temperature by about four degrees compared to the street. It saves lives. In Europe, 60,000 people die every year due to the heat.

Eat vegetables and stay a kid

The documentary is an interesting journey of discovery into the medical innovations of the future. At the same time, Eckart von Hirschhausen remains serious and avoids anything sensational. The result: medicine can do a lot and more in the future. The only question that remains is whether what is possible remains affordable for everyone in case of illness. But many diseases may not even occur. At the end of the documentary, Eckart von Hirschhausen gives some tips for a longer life: don't smoke, exercise regularly, eat lots of vegetables and grow up but stay a child. Hirschhausen himself has emphatically shown his own childish curiosity with this documentary.