QC Koan: I meditated for an hour and have nothing to show for it.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Note: This story is a modern parable of perception.
An extremely eccentric and wealthy billionaire devised a contest. He would invite six physicians to determine the definitive diagnosis for “Patient X.” There was a caveat. Each physician was allowed a visual examination only. On top of that, the patient was completely covered by silk fabric that was tucked under the body so that it was almost like the another layer of skin. The eccentric explained that it was vital to his interests that the patient remain anonymous. Based on their observations, each physician would be required to announce which tests he or she would recommend to confirm their diagnosis. The eccentric explained that it would be do no good to attempt secretly questioning the patient, as he was under general anesthesia. The prize was $10,000,000. The amount had been held and guaranteed through a prestigious law firm. A representative of the law firm was sitting in a corner of the room with a large suitcase. Everyone assumed that the money, or the means to the money, was in the suitcase.
The first physician was an orthopedic surgeon. He could see an irregularity in one of the legs. Years of clinical experience told him that the slight bulge was a result of a complex fracture that would require surgery to repair. He would order an MRI prior to surgery. He was surprised by the severity of the injury and took a moment to question the ethics of the contest. But $10,000,000 tax-free dollars was a lot of money. His good work would take the shape of a successful surgery.
The second physician was a genetics counselor. She cleverly thought: “If I can’t get a good examination of the body, I will question the relatives. The wealthy eccentric had not thought to disallow that. After talking to the relatives by telephone, she discovered a strong pattern of diabetes in the family. A simple blood test would confirm her diagnosis.
The third doctor was an endocrinologist. He noticed that the patient seemed overweight and already knew the diagnosis was obesity. But what caused the obesity? His first inclination was that he had high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Then he noticed the swelling in the neck. Goiter. He had a thyroid disorder.
The fourth doctor was a psychiatrist. She puzzled over the patient. Whatever else was true, she reasoned that a normal adult would never consent to a contest such as this. Therefore, the patient was a vulnerable adult. That meant that he was either mentally deficient or mentally ill and deluded. She would order psychological testing that included a patient interview in order to confirm the diagnosis.
The fifth doctor was a chiropractor. He could see, even under the silk fabric, that the head was tilted slightly to the left and the shoulders were not parallel. He decided that the patient had misalignments of the neck and spine. The proof of his diagnosis would be a successful course of treatment.
The sixth doctor was a retired GP who had become an undertaker. What struck her almost immediately was the complete lack of movement. She realized that the patient had been put under anesthesia. But the patient was too still. Under the silk fabric there should have been at least some movement. She watched closely. There was no movement at all in the abdomen or chest. The patient wasn’t breathing. Whatever underlying conditions may have contributed to his selection as a patient, at this point he was clearly dead. The undertaker had no way of knowing how long the patient had been dead. It was completely conceivable that the patient was still alive when put under general anesthesia, and died during the contest. As unfortunate as it may have been, the fact that she went last would give her a surprise victory.
The eccentric billionaire gathered the physicians into a room, and each gave their diagnosis and recommendations for testing. Finally it was the undertaker’s turn. “The patient is dead, and we have made a game of it.”
At that point the eccentric pulled back the silk fabric, revealing a highly detailed and extremely realistic mannequin with a few features out of joint.
You are all wrong,” he laughed. “The patient is suffering from a failure to be human.” He paused. “No one thought to diagnose the situation, to see if the test was rigged. No one wins.” He went over to the lawyer and picked up the suitcase. Then he went over to the large fireplace and emptied the contents of the suitcase into the fire. He was burning the money. Stacks and stacks of bundled bills. The physicians were all aghast. But they shouldn’t have been. Again, the situation was rigged. The money was fake.