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Trisha Torrey

Riddle Me This: Who Is the Surgeon?

By September 12, 2010

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A young boy and his father are in a car accident.  The father dies at the scene. The boy is transported to the hospital, taken immediately into surgery... but the surgeon steps out of the operating room and says, "I can't operate on this boy - he is my son!"

The question:  Who is the surgeon?

That riddle has been around for awhile - I remember hearing it years ago.  It has stumped people for a very long time.  The father died in the car accident -so....  huh?

It was posed again recently by the producers at Good Morning America.  A group of adults were asked - the general public - people on the streets of New York - and the great majority could not come up with the right answer.

But then the producers asked a group of fifth graders from a school in NYC - and the majority of them got it right.  Kids.  Kids without preformed ideas about who a surgeon should be....

Interestingly, the kids who got it wrong did have some unique answers - answers the adults didn't proffer.  They suggested it might have been the boy's step-dad, or that the boy's parents were BOTH dads...

But no - the real answer is that the surgeon was the boy's.... MOTHER.

Of course, GMA turned to an expert on gender issues to comment... and that expert was our own About.com Women's Issue's Guide - Linda Lowen.

Linda's comments reflected the two generations who were asked.  Boys and girls today understand better that both men and women can do a job as long as they have the skills, without regard to gender.

I share this story for a couple of reasons... it's a healthcare question, reminding us that we can't leap to conclusions about someone's capabilities to help us based on their gender (learn more about choosing the right doctor for you.)

But it also gives me hope.  That a new generation has embraced the concept of skills being more important than gender.  One day, I hope they will also embrace the idea of being empowered to help themselves by taking responsibility for their healthcare decisions, too.

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Learn more or join the conversation!


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Photo - screenshot from Good Morning America

September 13, 2010 at 8:50 am
(1) andrew says:

The link to the GMA video doesn’t seem to work; do you have another link?


Thanks for the heads up, Andrew Here is the corrected link. (They removed it! And certainly didn’t make it easy to find it again….)

February 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm
(2) Rosemary says:

Actually, your comment about some of the kids providing the ‘wrong’ answer shows a bias on your part. It’s not a wrong answer — just an unexpected answer.

March 8, 2014 at 7:40 pm
(3) Tex says:

The interesting thing to me is, that as a kid I probably could have answered this riddle, too. Born in ’85, our generation knows this. But over the years you watch TV shows with mostly male doctors, and that bias creeps back in,

So “hope for the next generation” is moot, unless the current generation works a lot harder to change society. We can’t just hope that the next generation to grow up better than ours. We have to work on ours to change theirs.

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