A Doctor’s Experience of Metamorphosis
When I was a child, whenever my mother took me to the hospital to see a doctor and I saw all the doctors and nurses in their white gowns scurrying around, I always thought that they looked like angels in white. I was full of admiration for them, and I used to think: If I could be an angel in white too when I grow up, that would be so great! As a young adult, my school grades were exceptionally good and I was able to pass the entrance exam for medical college, and eventually my heartfelt wish came true when I was sent to a certain city hospital to begin my career as a doctor. You can’t imagine how happy I was on the first day that I put on a white gown! The professional duty of doctors is to cure illness and prevent death, and that makes the profession highly respected, lofty! I was determined to live up to the nickname, angels in white, by being a totally responsible and professional doctor committed to relieving the suffering of my patients.
My Dream Begins to Crack
Following the trend of China’s reform and opening up, my hospital enthusiastically responded to the central government’s slogan “It doesn’t matter if the cat’s black or white as long as it catches rats.” The old system of jobs for life on fixed salaries was done away with, and everything became performance related. I worked in the hospital clinics and the hospital set a quota for the number of patients that we clinic doctors had to transfer to the hospital wards. For every patient short of the quota we were fined RMB 50. When I first learned of this I got very angry. I thought: So even if there is nothing seriously wrong with the patient, we must still send them to the wards? Isn’t this a kind of fraud? It’s completely heartless.
So I continued to make decisions about hospital stays for each patient based solely on my diagnosis of their illnesses and ignored the hospital’s directive. At the end of the month, my intransigence led to RMB 500 being deducted from my pay packet. Other doctors’ pay packets were thick and heavy while mine was pitifully thin. They all looked at me in a strange way, and I heard them saying things like: “She’s stupid. She can’t even hit the quota for admissions to the wards.” “Isn’t she just! Our clinic exceeded the quota.” The chief director of the hospital called me in for a scolding: “Xiaoliu! The government gives us very little money these days, so we have to balance the accounts ourselves. If we don’t get the money from the patients, how are we supposed to pay the staff salaries? If every doctor treated their patients the way you do, the hospital would have to shut up shop in no time!” When I heard this, I couldn’t help screaming to myself: You’re turning good people into thieves! I left the director’s office with tears in my eyes. One of the colleagues who I got along with quite well urged me to reconsider: “Don’t be so stubborn. Who doesn’t care about the money these days? As the saying goes, ‘Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost.’ We all work the same number of shifts over the month and you see as many patients as anyone and your professional skills are as good as anyone’s, but your pay is a lot less. Are you really so angelic that you no longer need to eat? Do you see yourself as a bodhisattva leading the masses to some Buddhist heaven?” Following my colleague’s “advice,” I gradually came to understand the true meaning of the saying, “Nature selects, the fittest survives.”
Going Along with the Hospital Admissions Scam
Faced with the cruel realities of hospital life, I had no choice but to change my ways and go along with the management’s rules. In order to do the job given to me and get paid more, I also started to bury my conscience and send patients who didn’t need to stay in hospital up to the wards. I usually had a smile on my face as I cajoled and deceived these patients, and they never knew what was going on. In order to get the proper treatment, they always trusted and obeyed everything I said, and were even very grateful. How could they know that behind their doctor’s smile there was an expert executioner? I remember one time when I examined a woman who just had a minor gynecological inflammation. In order to get more money out of her I scared her by saying: “Your illness is quite serious. If we don’t hurry up and admit you to hospital, it’s going to be a big headache to treat.” The patient meekly asked me what the “illness” was and I told her it was xxx, a kind of viral infection. The woman got very frightened and started crying. I immediately felt remorse for deceiving her and wanted to tell her, but then I thought about how not doing my given job would not only mean being mocked by my colleagues and criticized by my managers but would also mean less pay. So I gritted my teeth and stayed silent. Due to my intimidation the woman ended up staying in the hospital for a period of time. When I first started behaving like this, I would still feel a bit of compassion for the patients, but as time went by my conscience began to slowly disappear and I was left feeling more and more numb.
Material Comforts Can Never Relieve Spiritual Suffering
My whole being became consumed with the drive to make money, and besides cheating the patients I took any opportunity that arose in the hospital to further line my pockets. In our department, if the doctors did surgery on patients they could pocket the fees themselves without having to share them with the hospital. So to make even more money we began to grab as many operations as we could. There are always risks involved with surgery, but in order to increase our salaries we became reckless, and within a month these under-the-table fees were several times greater than our monthly salaries. With a purse always full of cash I started buying designer goods. The quality of my clothes and accessories rose dramatically, and if I saw some cosmetics that I liked I wouldn’t hesitate to get my credit card out and buy them. My friends and relatives started to look at me admiringly. But in the middle of the night, when everything was quiet, I would think of how I was doing operations in the hospital under the table. What would happen if I slipped up one day? Thinking of this was enough to make me shiver. Every day all of my energies and brainpower was going into making money without the least bit of conscience. I was living like a zombie and I didn’t know why I was living on this earth or what death was about. I had absolutely no direction in my life…. My spiritual unrest and suffering were torturing me to the point of losing sleep, and this is when I realized that material comfort could never solve the problem of the fear in my heart. In fact, the more my immoral gains, the more I lived in fear and agitation …