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Lieutenant Worf sustains a spine injury when some containers fall on him. He wakes up in sickbay to find that his spinal cord has been crushed, resulting in paraplegia. Dr. Beverly Crusher invites Dr. Toby Russell, a neurological specialist, onto the Enterprise to aid with Worf's treatment. The two doctors find themselves in uncharted territory: in Klingon medicine those who are paralyzed are allowed to die. Klingons with these kinds of injuries usually often perform the Hegh'bat, the Klingon ritual suicide.
Commander Riker goes to visit Worf in sickbay. Worf asks him to help him commit ritual suicide. Riker is shocked and repulsed by what Worf is asking for–to hand him a knife and leave him to stab himself in the heart. Riker refuses to help Whorf, because in his opinion Worf can still live out his life, even if crippled. Alexander, Worf's 9-year old son, is upset over his father's accident, and even more upset that Worf will not allow Alexander to see him in his condition. It goes against Worf's Klingon culture to be seen when in a disabled or injured state.
Dr. Russell proposes a new surgical procedure for Worf to Dr. Crusher. Dr. Russell believes that she can use what she calls a Genitronic Replicator to create an entirely new spinal column for Worf. But it would be the first time she had done this on a living being. Despite this, Russell wants to continue. At first, Russell and Crusher have Worf try using devices to transmit impulses to the appropriate muscles. But when it is revealed that Worf would not have full mobility, he refuses to use the devices. Against Crusher's wishes, Russell proposes the Genitronic procedure to Worf.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise diverts to render aid to the USS Denver. The Enterprise medical staff begin treating casualties. Dr. Crusher discovers that a patient under Dr. Russell's care had died after Russell tried an untested, experimental treatment. Outraged by Russell's reckless choice of a radical approach over conventional treatment, Crusher relieves Russell of duty, and tells Russell that she will not be permitted to practice medicine on board the Enterprise.
Captain Picard meets with Dr. Crusher after he learns that she has relieved Dr. Russell of duty. She had found that Starfleet had refused permission to allow Russell to use living subjects for her procedure (the one she had proposed to try on Worf). Crusher says that Worf was basically healthy for the time being, but that if he went into surgery he could die. Picard tells her that she should consider allowing Russell to perform the operation. He tells her that the only way to save Worf's life is to do this. Even though Crusher knows Worf could have a full life even with this paralysis, Picard knows that Worf's Klingon upbringing says that his life was over the moment he was struck by the container.
Meanwhile, Riker studies the Klingon death ritual, and finds that Worf's son Alexander – his only immediate family member – would need to be the one to help. It is not Riker's place to help Worf commit suicide. In light of this, Worf summons Alexander to sickbay and informs him that he has chosen not to kill himself, but instead to try the experimental surgical procedure suggested by Dr. Russell.
Worf goes into surgery. Everything seems to go right until the end of the operation, when suddenly Worf crashes and dies on the operating table.
Crusher goes to tell Alexander that Worf has died. Alexander demands to see his father. When they come back they find that Worf's synaptic functions have reactivated; his brain also had a backup system. This allowed him to survive the operation. Soon his body begins functioning again.
While thrilled that Worf will recover, Crusher is disturbed by Russell's attitude of "the ends justify the means." Crusher tells Russell that real research is a slow and painstaking process, which sometimes takes a lifetime, and that she cannot abide Russell's shortcuts.
- Armstrong • Beverly Crusher • Data • Geordi La Forge • Martinez • Nelson • Alyssa Ogawa • Jean-Luc Picard • William T. Riker • Alexander Rozhenko • Dennis Russell • Toby Russell • Deanna Troi • Worf, son of Mogh
- Referenced only
- Marla Aster • Fang-lee • K'Ehleyr • Helena Rozhenko • Sergey Rozhenko • Sandoval • Natasha Yar
Starships and vehicles
- USS Enterprise-D (Galaxy-class) • USS Potemkin (Excelsior-class)
- Referenced only
- USS Denver (Yorkshire-class)
- Adelman Neurological Institute • Beloti sector (Mericor system) • Kelneria region • Mylaira system • Sector 37628
Races and cultures
States and organizations
- alkysine • biobed • borathium • brak'lul • cargo bay • chlorinide • chloromydride • cordrazine • cortical stimulator • CPK enzymatic therapy • cybernetics • detronal scanner • drechtal beam • dynoscanner • exoscalpel • Federation-Cardassian War • genitronic replicator • genitronics • gravitic mine • hegh'bat • inaprovaline • isocortex • laser scalpel • leporazine • morathial series • motor assist band • neural metaphasic shock • neural transducer • neurogenetics • pia mater • poker • polyadrenaline • restraining field • ribosome infusion • shuttlebay • sickbay • spinal cord • steri-field • surgical support frame • thalamic booster • tricorder • VeK'tal • VISOR • warp coil
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