Dr. Patrick Lightner looked up from his patient's ear canal into the eyes of his fellow surgeons. "Has it ever occurred to anyone here that what we're doing is wrong?"
"Wrong? How so?" replied Dr. Stanley Chang, ophthalmologist, peering up at Dr. Lightner from his work on his patient's eyes.
The otolaryngologist sighed. "I don't know." He returned to his work briefly, then stopped again. "It's just that... I mean, aren't we supposed to be helping people, not hurting them?"
"We are helping people." Neurologist Dr. Sylvia Zynkaninski did not look up from her delicate work on the patient's brain stem. "We are helping to ensure that this monster will never harm another human being as long as he lives."
"But how do we know that this procedure works?" asked Dr. Lightner as he slid a long, thin scalpel up his patient’s nose and fished out a chunky orange piece of flesh.
Dr. Zynkaninski replied in the cold logical tone that had become her auditory trademark during her years as head of the surgical wing of the prison. “Without any sort of sensory functioning, the prisoner is incapable of committing any type of crime whatsoever. Not only will this despicable excuse for a human being soon be paralyzed from the neck down, he will not have any of his other four senses, which will end his ability to communicate with fellow criminals and plan his evil acts. He will not even be able to look upon another human being and fantasize about doing terrible things to them.”
Dr. Chang nodded. “He will be completely incapacitated. He will never again commit any sort of crime.” He pulled out his handheld laser minigun and fired one shot into each of the patient’s two eyes.
With a loud pop, Dr. Lightner quickly, reluctantly perforated the patient’s eardrums with a long forklike instrument. “But didn’t they use to just lock up people who committed crimes, instead of taking their senses? I thought I read something about that once.”
“Yes, they used to do that,” said Dr. Zynkaninski. “It didn’t work, though. All the prisoners just wound up learning how to be better criminals from their cellmates, and then, when they got out, nobody would give them jobs, so they just went out and committed more crimes so they could get back into prison. It was getting really out of hand.”
“Besides,” Dr. Chang interrupted, “when they did that, they had to spend money actually entertaining the prisoners, they had to give them books and television because if they didn’t everyone would say that they were cruel and that the prisoners had to be occupied so they wouldn’t keep on thinking about killing people and stealing things.”
“So much money was spent in keeping these people in nice, sanitary cells, and keeping them entertained, that the economy began to collapse because of it. We were spending more on these monsters than on education or infrastructure. It couldn’t go on forever.”
Dr. Chang applied small bandages to the center of each of his patient’s eyeballs, to stop the clear liquid inside from spilling all out and making a mess of things. “The cost to keep one of these prisoners in the state penal complex is only fifty dollars a month, just enough to cover the cost of food and the salary of a nurse to come once a week and clean them.”
Dr. Lightner winced as he listened to the scraping sound his scalpel made as he relieved the patient of his taste buds. “Wouldn’t it be better just to put them to sleep, like we do with animals?”
Dr. Zynkaninski looked startled. “I hope you’re not suggesting we return to capital punishment, doctor. People haven’t done that since the twenty-second century.”
“We are more advanced now,” agreed the ophthalmologist.
Otolaryngologist Dr. Patrick Lightner placed a bandage on the patient’s tongue, which was swelling up with tiny droplets of watery blood. “Was this man really that dangerous? Did he really deserve this?”
The neurologist was now the one to look up. “He raped five women, set a residential building on fire, and kept the remains of seventeen human bodies in his refrigerator.”
“Oh. I see.”
Dr. Chang smiled at him sympathetically. “You’re new to all this, Patrick. Once you have done this as many times as we have, you will see that it is necessary. I know that the idea of taking away a man’s senses seems rather cruel, but it has to be done. This man hurt people.”
"Yes, well, he won't be hurting anyone else, ever again." Dr. Zynkaninski sliced through the patient's thin white spinal cord with a flourish. "Nobody will ever have to worry about him escaping prison ever again either. He is locked up in the prison inside himself, now." She stitched the patient’s skin back up, hastily yet elegantly, the sutures almost like the medical equivalent of fine embroidery. Almost.
The surgery was now complete. All three stood back and admired one another's work in silent reverie. All of the doctors agreed that the operations had been complete successes, and that any additional trauma or scarring would be negligible. Dr. Lightner volunteered to be the one to call head office at the state penal complex, to tell them the operation was finished and to reserve another fifty-dollar bed.