Question:

In order to get a driving license in Israel, you have to have a doctor fill out a form saying you are healthy. I made an appointment with my doctor for this purpose, and she filled out the form. She said that I was really supposed to pay NIS 70 for it but she didn’t mind doing it for free, so I didn’t pay anything. Now I presume that the money would have gone to the kupat cholim, not into the doctor’s pocket. If it was supposed to go to the doctor then I suppose she can waive the fee, but surely she can’t waive it on behalf of the kupah. Do I have to give the money to the kupah? Did the doctor violate lifnei iver? Can I return the money to the kupah without saying who the doctor was? I know other people who have had the same experience; should I tell them to pay back the money, too?

Answer:

If the doctor was given the authority to make such decisions on behalf of the clinic, then you are not stealing from the clinic. Generally, clerks and salespeople are given some discretionary powers by their superiors and customers are permitted to take advantage of this. If, for example, a gym or pool attendant allows you free entry, you can accept it. The attendant was put in charge and his/her decisions are binding on the establishment. A doctor may decide not to swipe your card and to see you privately instead; if he is not taking up someone else’s time, you can accept it. If the clinic finds out and orders the doctor to stop this practice, it becomes forbidden from that point onward. In this case, it is unclear to me what happened. Did she swipe your card? Who will suffer the loss? Will she have to pay for it in the end? Once the kupah knows a patient came in, they might have a way of accounting for all the cash expected.

I know of a doctor who asked me if he could do something similar to what your doctor did, and I told him to ask his superiors. They did not allow it so he had to stop.

If there is a possibility that the doctor is making the kupah lose money and thekupah does not approve, you can correct the situation by giving money to the kupahwithout saying what it is for. Avoid mentioning the doctor’s name since that may harm the doctor more than is justified. The kupah would be justified in demanding that she stop this practice and pay it any potential profit she caused it to lose. If she should have known that the kupah would not approve and was never given the authority to make such decisions, she might be liable. But her superiors might take more drastic measures and fire her. Since there is some doubt as to whether the doctor is working within her authority, you do not have to notify others, but you should not continue this practice until it is clear to you that it is within the doctor’s authority to do what she is doing.

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