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Half knowledge is dangerous

Filed on June 5, 2021

Dr Dhananjay (Jay) Datar


Once a youth from India had joined our company as a helper. To impress his fellow workers, he started diagnosing sick workers voluntarily and began offering medicines from his stock for free. Those who got cured by the treatment told others and soon word of mouth made the fellow popular.

One day, our HR Manager reported to me about the self-proclaimed doctor. He also told me that the workers had stopped visiting actual dispensaries to save expenses on consultation and medicines. He thought that I would be pleased to hear the news, but I was shocked and became upset and worried. I summoned the gentleman immediately.

I asked him where he had learned the skills to diagnose ailing patients. He proudly told me that previously he had been working as a compounder at a dispensary in his village. After watching the doctor’s practice for a couple of years, he had learned the technique by himself. He had memorised the names of medicines the doctor would give for different ailments. He showed me a bag in which he had stored the medicines. I made him pour the contents out on my table. To my surprise, the pile contained some injection vials, tablets and lotions that should be prescribed only by a registered medical practitioner.

I immediately ordered him to stop his activity. He was puzzled but didn’t say anything. I told him, “Young man, you don’t know what a big mistake and crime you are committing. You have neither taken formal medical education from any valid institute nor possess an official medical degree. You are prescribing allopathic medicines and even injecting some, which is very dangerous.

You are less learned and that too by observation. You don’t know the complexities of various ailments and also the side effects of certain medicines on the human body. It is purely your luck that no one has ever encountered any problem from your treatment, but it is not your domain. Stop here or else you might go to jail someday.”

Even in business, some people think that they will learn the technique by experience, observations or simply copying others. Hence they start any business that is popular and giving fast returns, but they forget the truth — that venturing into unknown waters is usually dangerous. I remember at the start of the 21st century there was an information technology explosion and everyone was talking about it.

Someone baited me into joining the businesses of software development and hardware selling. I called my father, who was enjoying his retired life in India. He listened patiently and asked only one question, “Son, have you ever learned how to operate the computer and fix its problems? If not, then don’t go for it. A bird in your hand is worth two in the bush.”

I always remember an apt quote by Samuel Johnson — “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing — it only hastens fools to rush in where angels fear to tread”.

 






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