An alien ship that has been observing earth, and humans in particular, for the past year has sustained catastrophic damage and crash lands on earth. While the alien ship has a crew of about 20 specialists, the damage was significant enough that all are injured, with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening, including some deaths. Enough control was maintained during the crash-landing that the aliens were able to choose the location of landing (the Boston Airport) and send off a broad S.O.S. to humans. Could the humans give the aliens medical attention in a manner that would save lives or limit future complications?

Additional information:

  • Due to the incident and stresses of re-entry, all electrical/information storage systems onboard the ship are completely destroyed.

  • All of the aliens are specialists in a field and are researching some part of Earth, which means they have a college-level education including knowledge of their own anatomy, BUT

    The medical bay was located on the bottom of the ship, which sustained the worst damage. The main doctor is dead, his two assistants are in critical condition and unconscious. No one conscious has studied medicine.

  • Fortunately, the alien researching human language is conscious, and can speak English passably. The translation work she has been doing for other departments includes some for the medical staff, giving her the equivalent human anatomy knowledge of a third grader. She has broken bones.

  • The aliens look like a cross between a human and a giant bird. They have some equivalent organs to birds/humans, but not all, and some functions are performed differently.

  • All injuries were directly caused by the crash, and all aliens were healthy beforehand.

  • This is presumed to happen present day.

  • They are aliens are helped by human doctors/vets who follow current medical ethical practices.

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    $\begingroup$ If you dig scifi like this be sure to order some of the Sector General books. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sector_General. The whole premise of the series is aliens taking care of aliens, and a recurring theme is sick and very weird aliens showing up. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 23:31
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    $\begingroup$ There seem a few more big assumptions here: That our atmosphere is not chemically fatal to them, that Earthly pressure and temperature is within a zone they are compatible with, and that they are not quite so biologically similar to be deliciously vulnerable to Earthly microorganisms, And that they are resistant to contaminants and pollutants we take for granted. And rain...they better not dissolve in water. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 Yes, those assumptions are true, so it it would seem. The survivors haven't suffocated yet, anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Elessar
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 4:27
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how this query is story based. It's a pretty simple yes/no/maybe so "can aliens be saved by modern medical treatment"; not "how might the main character approach the treatment of said aliens". $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ It's an interesting premise but it's 1) story based and 2) too broad. Why? Because the answers you're looking for aren't yes or no. That level of answer isn't even allowed here. Answers have to be detailed. They include examples, and research and discussion of the elements involved. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 6:01

4 Answers 4


The ones with minor injuries will be easy to treat, as bandaging and other such basics should not be too different. Even if they were silicon based or such, but with some self-healing capacity, just straightening them into their normal shapes and taking care of external loss of liquids should be enough for them.

With one of them being able to communicate with the humans and able to explain food needs and a little bit about medical needs (some from the experiences of the conscious aliens the translator communicates with), food, liquids, energy needs and such should quickly be possible to fix and some more advanced treatments should be possible.

Some of the internal damages should also be possible to fix with some good guesses and by analysing (and testing procedures with) the dead aliens.

The worst issue might be infections with Earths diseases (bacteria, fungi, amoebae, larvae, mites, fleas, small worms...), and even some things humans don't see as such but aliens might not have immunity against - algae, larger worms, and many more.

I'd assume humans would quickly seal of the alien ship and create a sterile makeshift hospital right at the airport, but they might also move the aliens to the 'best' nearby clinic, with all its multi resistant germs, standard procedures (glucose infusions and such) which might be deadly for aliens, and other such issues.

There's also a question how much humans try to communicate with the aliens about their needs, or whether they are more interested in security issues, fast answers to where they come from, and so on. Whether security minded or science minded humans have the say. And so on.


Absolutely not

I know a lot about my own anatomy, and I could easily scream, "I'm allergic to Penicillin!" but I couldn't possibly explain to an alien doctor what Penicillin is ("it's moldy bread! What do you mean, 'what's bread?'") and your aliens couldn't possibly explain that to us, either.

Unless by a miracle of evolution their physiology allowed them to be 100% compatible with human pharmaceuticals, the two and only two things we could do that wouldn't run a massive risk of killing them is bandage their wounds and splint broken bones. And we'd need to do that without the use of X-rays because we have no idea how they would react to X-ray radiation. ("Okay, a quick scan and HOLY MOSES HE'S ON FIRE!")

Oh, we'd be running tests on blood and tissue samples like mad. In fact, whomever has those samples would be beating off every government agency and college or university with a stick! But tests take time to run, especially thorough "we don't want to kill the patient" tests, and that assumes that the people speaking can actually explain anything useful to a doctor about their gizzards. ("You see that purple blobby thing over there, with the tendrils coming out of it? Yeah! That's a Qanurkle. It's purpose is to regulate m'shenthain degredation in our Hwiiiinip gland. What does the Hwiiinip gland do? I'm not completely sure, it has something to do with blood sugar. I sure wish our doctor was here!")

And this is assuming that aliens with open sores and bleeding wounds aren't inundated with terrestrial diseases they couldn't possibly be fully inoculated for. I'm a huge fan of Morgan Freeman's paraphrase from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds.

From the moment the invaders arrived, breathed our air, ate, and drank, they were doomed. They were undone, destroyed, after all of man's weapons and devices had failed, by the tiniest creatures that God in His wisdom had put upon this Earth. By the toll of a billion deaths Man had earned his immunity, his right to survive among this planet's infinite organisms. And that right is ours against all challengers, for neither do men live, or die, in vain.

You did not say that they came prepared to walk in our atmosphere, among our people, unaided by any technological assistance. I am therefore assuming the best they have is general antibiotic assistance and possibly inoculation against the biggies (Polio, Measles, etc.), but otherwise, they're wide open to attack from almost any bacteria or virus.

Our good medical staff would likely save those with bumps, scratches, cuts, broken bones — so long as they kept the aliens in at least a Hazmat-grade medically clean environment. But anyone needing more than a few stitches is dead before we can analyze enough to know that the latest miracle drug from the world's pharmaceutical companies wouldn't kill them instantly.

BTW, it's a temptation to think, "they're gonna die anyway, what can it hurt? Stick that boy with 20cc's of unfractionated heparin! No! I don't think that's a tumor! I don't care what it is! What do you mean pinching it affects his breathing? I SAID STICK THAT BOY! NOW STICK HIM OR YOUR... oh rats, he's dead. Next!" But I'm kinda thinking that explaining those actions to the survivors would sound more like Mengele-grade torture-research than it would an honest effort to save their lives. I'm just sayin'.

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    $\begingroup$ While some of this answer is a tidbit hyperbole (catching fire on x-ray), I otherwise agree with it. Treating anything but trifle injuries with "medieval" means on an unknown species which likely has a different biochemistry is insanely impossible. Cross reactions and alternative pathways and suprises exist even within the one species that we know and have studied for thousands of years. Also, with the mention of them being affected by measles, and thinking that idea to the end, the most rational thing to do would be to nuke Boston Airport anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Damon
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ This scare about earthly bugs is way over the top. War of the Worlds had a good idea, yet it was poorly researched. While a lot does depend on the aliens biochemistrys similarly with ours, instant compatability with anything would be extreme unfortune. Even on Earth, with the same biochemistry, ones does not instanly catch an infection when traveling to the Kongo. Unless the teams working with the aliens don't use hazmed suits and don't seal the vessel of there's little opportunity for infection. Keeping up an enhanced sterility protocol should work fine. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 11:43
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    $\begingroup$ Viruses are totally harmless, because they are specialised for a single type of cell. Thats why virophages are such a great medicine compared to antibiotics. A fictional example of ilien biosphere interaction done well is Cibola Burn from The Expanse by James S. A. Cory. [paraphrasing] It is a resource problem. Their biochemistry ain't compatible to ours, so nothing can infect us, but we [humans ] are walking bags of resources the life here needs. Water, minerals you name it. [] In the end some kind of alien aerial alge settled into the eyes of the colonists causing blindness. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ Blood sugar? Our aliens run on molten polytetrafluoroethylene. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 21:12

Short term: YES

Long term: NO

Sure, broken bones and bumped noggins can be treated well enough with basic first aid. I can't imagine any deep space observation crew would venture forth without more self-knowledge than a third grader. They may not know as much as their physician, but they should have some kind of idea what their bodies are made of and how they function, what constitutes normal conditions and abnormal.

One thing we need to consider is long term prognosis versus short term. I mean, this isn't like an ER where they splint your arm, take your insurance information and send you on your way with discharge instructions. Is that enough to count them as saved? To fix their immediate wounds?

These people are basically going to have to be, well, "stored" in a superhygienic environment for the rest of their lives in order to keep Earth's environment from killing them. What if their normal life spans are a thousand years? Maybe in all that time we might be able to reverse engineer enough of their starship technology to fare out into space on our own and return to their own people.

Economically, and realistically, this may not be possible. The military will almost certainly confiscate the starship --- no chance of that technology ever becoming open source! They'll probably also confiscate the alien people themselves, assuring the American people that they'll be well looked after.

Long term saving, I think, amounts to not a chance!


It's going to vary directly with how similar their biology is to earth creatures.

If they're oxygen breathers, and can survive, even thrive in Earth's atmosphere, that's going to be a big help, cause it suggests that their biology tracks with ours. That'll increase the chances of keeping them stable with basic first aid.

There's going to have to be a great deal of hasty experimentation. Since there's little to no guarantee that our medicines will work the same on them, tests and experiments are going to have to be made on tissue samples, and if it's an emergency, on the subjects. Antibiotics to prevent infection, and painkillers to provide comfort would likely be the first things attempted.

I think the most important thing to work on, providing we can at least stabilize the patients, is the electronics of their ship. Not as much to recover their medical records, but to get a message to their people that they are injured, but stable, and are in need of recovery.

Now this is all completely ignoring the political aspects of the United States having documented possession of an alien craft, and living (for the moment) alien beings under their care. THAT...is a whole nother question. Perhaps I shall ask it.


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