There are no absolutes when it comes to integrity and honesty!
A doctor friend of mine, after a couple of drinks at a recent party, narrated a story about a patient Z, who had been troubling him and his staff for the past 2-3 days. Z was to be operated for a slow growing tumor on his face, which had been around for the last 3 years. He had had a CT scan done 2 years ago and a repeat study was performed a week back. My friend mentioned in his report that as compared to the previous scan, the tumor had increased in size. Z wanted this line deleted because otherwise he wouldn’t get insurance, if the insurance company knew that the tumor had existed for 3 years. Z wanted to suppress all his past medical records and history related to the tumor and show that this had only come up recently. My friend refused to do so and in any case as part of standard policy, he didn’t have the ability to change a report once it had been handed over to the patient. The patient refused to listen and kept harassing everyone in the CT scan department. It reached a stage where my friend and Z had a slanging match with my friend having to finally bang down the phone. Even though there was clear malicious intent, Z did not see anything wrong in scamming the insurance company.
A few more doctors joined in and each one had stories of patients who were willing to go to ridiculous lengths to hide records of previous treatments, just so that they could get medical insurance or reimbursement. However not a single non-doctor who heard this discussion thought there was anything wrong in what Z was doing and a few were surprised that we were even talking about this issue.
Clearly, suppressing the knowledge of pre-existing disease is wrong in a black and white world. And yet most people in this world will still do it, if it helps them get a better deal with an insurance company.
This is the same paradoxical behavior that up to a few years ago would make heroes out of those who were raided by the income-tax authorities. No one used to think that it was wrong to conceal income. Today, things have changed a bit, but there are still large numbers of people in India who look at you as if you are an idiot, when you talk about declaring all your income and paying taxes on it.
This is also the same behavior that used to make otherwise law-abiding citizens in the 70s and 80s lie about the bottles of alcohol and expensive watches they were smuggling back from foreign trips, before the customs laws became so much more liberal.
This is also perhaps the reason why Ms. Kiran Bedi did what she did. People inviting her for lectures were willing to pay her business class fares. She traveled discounted economy and still went ahead and claimed business class reimbursement, the difference going into a charity that she was running and needed funds for. From an absolute perspective, what she did was wrong. But given the constraints and the practicalities involved, I am not sure I wouldn’t perhaps have done the same thing for my charity.
It’s funny! The same people who would die rather than be caught taking or giving bribes or stealing money, will often have no qualms when it comes to situations like the ones I have described above.
These all serve as reminders of how gray our world really is!