Monday, March 26, 2012

Society's Debt

When he was a child, Darren once accompanied his father to a patients home. He sat on a rickety chair in the corner and watched as his dad administered to an elderly woman buried in a mound of blankets. His father's stethoscope disappeared into the amorphous pulsating mass, his eyes averted as he squinted to listen. He spoke a few quiet words, and left a bottle of pills on the night stand. Upon entering the foyer, a young woman rushed forward with a loaf of freshly baked bread and a cherry pie wrapped in tin foil. Although they returned home with empty pockets, they ate well that night.

The summer after his second year of high school, Darren volunteered at the local hospital. He delivered newspapers and flowers to each room. Occasionally he stared out the corridor windows and watched his friends playing football on the adjacent field.

In his first year of medical school, Darren stood in a crowded room with hundreds of physicians and students. His white coat was overstartched and slightly to large for his shoulders. The name of his medical school was emblazoned on the chest in neat cursive writing. He recited the Oath Of Geneva with the rest of his colleagues and pledged to consecrate his life to the service of humanity.

During residency, Darren sacrificed sleep as well as his youth to an apprenticeship forged in minimal wages. During electives he accompanied the younger attendings to a clinic for the under served. Payment was considered a smile, handshake, or a pat on the back.

And when Darren opened his new clinic, he refused to turn away those who couldn't afford his care. His schedule usually had space, and his medicine cabinet was continuously stocked. Even when overhead costs skyrocketed and medicaid payments were months late, Darren stood by his principles.

So when the bank called one morning looking for payment, and the landlord could no longer wait for overdue rent, Darren figured he deserved some leniency.

A month later, without office space and mired in bankruptcy, he realized that most people weren't like him.

And most professionals don't bother to take such lofty oaths.

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