A Parable: Doctor’s Remedy

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After a deadly virus had spread across the world, researchers scrambled to find a cure. Thousands of people were dying daily. Within months, several countries were wiped out. However, in a small town, Dr Bob found a remedy for the virus.

The remedy was obtained from a rare plant that lived in the valley near his house. He was testing compounds and discovered that the virus was eliminated at high doses. His hands shook as he held the test results. Visions of stacks of money, expensive mansions and yachts filled his mind. He had the remedy for the virus that people would pay any amount for. He shared his joyous findings with his wife.

But Dr Bob felt a tinge of guilt eating away. If he had the cure, shouldn’t he share it with scientists all over the world so that people would not die? As a doctor, he promised that people’s lives were more important than anything else. His wife also urged him to share the secret freely with others. He was in a dilemma. Should he share and possibly lose all chance of making money? Or keep the remedy as his sole invention and risk more people dying?

Dr Bob’s greed overtook him. He started a company to sell the remedy and became famous overnight. No other scientists were allowed to know the secret of his remedy. Orders for the remedy came non-stop and he quickly hired staff to produce, pack and deliver it all across the globe. People were getting cured!

But he couldn’t cope with the demand. As any good economist would point out, with increased demand and limited supply, price goes up. Up and up it went. Dr Bob even managed to IPO the company and make a killing on the stock market. He upgraded his apartment to a mansion by the lake. He scrapped his banged up Toyota and bought five luxury cars.

Life was good. But still, people were dying all across the world. As prices had skyrocketed, only the super rich could afford it. The poor were dying of the virus even though a cure was available. Strikes and protest against his company occurred regularly. But Dr Bob didn’t care. By now, his conscience was seared by a hot iron. His wife grew more distant from him.

Dr Bob’s clients suggested that he make the remedy more palatable by adding sugar syrup. But by adding sugar, he would dilute the remedy making it less effective. The virus wouldn’t be eliminated but suppressed. If the patient stopped taking the remedy, the virus would appear with a vengeance. That’s what he did. He diluted the remedy to make it sweeter. He slapped on a nice cute label on the medicine bottle as marketing experts had advised him.

Sales went through the roof. People didn’t realise that the remedy wasn’t working as well as it should. Even Dr Bob liked the taste of the new remedy. Soon, the virus adapted and mutated. A second epidemic swept over the world and all those who took the diluted remedy were severely infected and died. However, the first group of patients who took the full remedy were immune.

Dr Bob was infected by the second epidemic wave. As he lay on his bed dying, his wife stayed beside him. His massive house looked empty and cold. Bob said to his wife in ragged breaths, “I have sinned. I didn’t share the secret formula…so many have died. Also, I diluted the remedy and thought it would be safe.”

“I know,” she said as tears streamed down her face. “That’s why I gave away the remedy freely to the poor and those who couldn’t afford it all the while. I just didn’t tell you.”

Dr Bob’s eyes widened and he smiled, before breathing his last gasp.

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