Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Puttiing things in contexts

I often wonder why people may change their decisions when questions are put in different contexts. Here is an example. I read Peter Franklin's story from the book "Better" by Atul Gawande. One day, Peter became sick so he called his father who is a doctor. He went through a chest X-Ray and they found a very large tumor in his chest. However, his dad also discovered that Peter had a chest X-ray four years ago. He went back to look at the diagnosis and found that the radiologist discovered his tumor then but it was never mentioned to Peter. Eventually, the Franklins sue the doctors and they won the case and was awarded $600,000 in damages. Peter eventually survived the aggressive treatments.

Here is when things become interesting to me. After completing medical school, Peter decided to move into radiology. However, he was rejected by his top-choice residency programs. His dean at Boston University called the chairman of the radiology department and they told him that he did not get in because "This guy's a maverick! He's suing doctors!". Then, the dean told Peter's story and asked "If this was your son, what would you do?" And, Peter got accepted after that.

So, what is the moral of this story? Why our decisions are shaped by the contexts? Why do we need others to rephrase the question for us to develop compassion towards other human beings? Why can't we use our own imagination and put things into perspectives ourselves?

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