My parents graciously offered to lend my wife and me the down payment for a home. While we can easily afford the mortgage payments, the bank wants all of us to sign a statement saying the money from my parents is a gift, not a loan, although the bank representative literally winked as he handed me the statement. I am reluctant to ask my parents to be dishonest, but isn't everyone better off if this deal goes through? -- M.S., Boston
I think everyone is better off if that bank representative embezzles $100,000 and sends it to me. My joy will spread outward to delight others like the rays of the sun -- a big, happy, money-drunk sun. But that would not justify dealing falsely with the bank, and that's what you propose to do, albeit with its encouragement. Your obligation to act honestly did not vanish with a nudge and a wink.
The bank has a legitimate interest in your ability to make your mortgage payments, something that could be threatened if you are encumbered with other debts. If that bank representative had the authority to grant the loan despite your having borrowed from your parents -- he might see that as a softer, more flexible obligation than one to a stranger -- he should do so openly. He should not press you to file false documents. He should not lead you to believe you're getting a special, shady deal. (And he should recall that banks have not prospered lately by enticing home buyers to file misleading applications or take on more debt than is prudent.) If he did not have the authority, he shouldn't do so at all -- otherwise, he abets your fraud and deceives his employer.
There is the possibility that his wink was not an invitation to deceit but a sign that he found you attractive. The worst you can say about that is he should do his flirting on his own time, and that it's insensitive to flirt with you while your wife is right there in the room.
UPDATE: M.S. asked his parents to sign the statement. They felt uneasy with the deceit and instead made the money a genuine gift.
I am a family physician. A patient I'd not seen in months passed away about an hour after being discharged from an emergency room. Her mother, also my patient, asked me to review the records and autopsy to see if she should bring a malpractice suit against the ER physician and the hospital. I am friends with the physician and on the hospital's board. Ought I comply with this request? -- J.R., Connecticut
You should not. Indeed, you cannot -- not properly, not without risking charges of bias. Your attachment to your friend and your position on the hospital's board create -- or may seem to create -- divided loyalties. You should recuse yourself from this task, explain to the patient's mother why you are doing so, and refer her to a disinterested physician with the expertise to review the records and advise her how best to proceed.
UPDATE: J.R. met with the family but did not offer a medical opinion, explaining that the records provided insufficient information for him to do so. He said he believed that they would not be satisfied unless the matter were investigated further and so suggested they speak to a lawyer who would have a neutral expert review the case.
(Readers can direct their questions and comments by e-mail to email@example.com. This column originates in The New York Times Magazine.)