By Henry Buchwald, MD, PhD


A Parable

[After five rings, a robot answers the phone number the caller was given upon leaving the hospital after surgery.]

Robot: This is Firm A. If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911. Otherwise, listen carefully to the following options: For billing, please press or say 1 [a long list of options follows]. If you’re calling for something else, say “something else.”

Caller: Something else.

Robot: Please stay on the line for the next