Christmas 2012: Tomorrow’s World

Case report of E.T.—The Extra-Terrestrial

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8127 (Published 18 December 2012)
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8127

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  1. Gregory Scott, clinical research fellow1,
  2. Edward Presswood, core medical training doctor2
  1. 1Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Hammersmith Hospital, London W12 0HS, UK
  2. 2Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust, Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield, UK
  1. Correspondence to: G Scott gregory.scott99{at}imperial.ac.uk

Gregory Scott and Edward Presswood present the intriguing case of ET and provide advice for those who have a medical close encounter with an extraterrestrial

In his 1982 film, E.T.–The Extra-Terrestrial, Steven Spielberg documented the short period when an alien named ET was stranded in a suburban region of North America.1 The film portrays the special relationship between ET and an alienated young schoolboy, Elliott. Previous work has looked at the cinematic importance of the film, but there has hitherto been no serious medical account of ET, despite the depiction of various pathophysiological states and detailed footage of ET’s medical care.

Based on an analysis of available footage, and disregarding the film’s emotional distractions,2 we report the medical case of ET. We describe his anatomy and pathophysiology, examine his medical care, and shed light on his glowing digits and luminous heart.

Case presentation

ET is an alien botanist and explorer who became unwell after being abandoned during an expedition to a forest in North America. Nothing is known of ET’s medical history, but his selection for interplanetary exploration suggests he was previously fit and well.

ET is a bilaterian tetrapod, sharing many of the physical characteristics of primates. Given that ET’s species evolved on a remote planet, the similarities are a striking example of convergent evolution.3 ET’s age is unclear. He is presumed to be male, although his external genitalia have never been observed. He weighs 35 lb (15.75 kg) and is about 4ft 6 in (1.35 m) tall, a measurement that varies because of his extensible cervical spine. Despite having the mass of a 4 year old boy,4 ET has a body habitus associated with increased cardiovascular risk.5

ET’s upper limbs are similar to the vertebrate pentadactyl limb, although he has only three fingers …

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