Revival of The Hippocratic Oath
Once vaunted, but long forgotten. Abandonment of the Hippocratic Oath hearkens the rot in the field of Medicine.
The shortcomings of modern medicine have been known for decades.
In the past, it was obvious to industry insiders and people who have been harmed by the system. The remainder have been blissfully ignorant of its failures, passively contributing to its continued growth.
As with many broken institutions, it relies on the continued ignorance of the masses to keep itself alive.
Many don’t hesitate to blame a few bad actors - such as insurance and pharmaceutical companies - to signal that they recognize the problem.
Of course, they would never point the finger at themselves.
Not the doctors, nor the people.
These shortcomings have reached a climax in recent years.
The institutions of medicine have overextended themselves with such arrogance, that their failure is now undeniable by even their most devout believers.
In order for evil to prevail, all that need happen is for good people to do nothing.
Ethics is the branch of philosophy that seeks to resolve questions of morality by understanding the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, vice and virtue.
The word ethics derives from the Greek ēthikós - relating to one’s character.
One of the earliest Western texts on medical ethics is the Hippocratic Oath. In ancient times, new physicians would swear to uphold the tenets of this Oath.
In modern times, the Oath has been revised to accommodate cultural changes, both benign and fickle. In part, a reflection of institutional capture.
Whether good or bad, the Oath has been replaced with institutional ‘ethical codes’ published by self-aggrandizing organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA).
These days, the overwhelming majority of medical students and doctors cannot tell you a single tenet of the Oath.
If this failure is not a core contributor to the rot in medicine, then what is?
Since medical school, I have been witness to the distinct lack of moral duty amongst my colleagues. The Oath, in its transcendent wisdom, provides the type of generalizable guidance that many today lack.
In my opinion, the convolutions of modern ‘ethical codes’ obfuscate the core guiding principles of the physician and his moral duty.
They are so lost, that many will cover for one another during their times of moral failing - so as to not ‘rock the boat.’ Even if their failing resulted in injury to their patient.
By overwhelming and confusing new generations of doctors, we have provided fertile ground upon which the four pillars of medical ethics can be eroded:
Beneficence - do good.
Non-maleficence - do no harm.
Autonomy - freedom to choose.
Justice - fairness.
Answer me this:
Have you witnessed any of the four pillars betrayed in recent years?
The Hippocratic Oath
Here, we will revisit the classic Hippocratic Oath.
I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius the surgeon, likewise Hygieia and Panacea, and call all the gods and goddesses to witness, that I will observe and keep this underwritten oath, to the utmost of my power and judgment.
We begin by swearing an oath to the Gods.
Not to the government, the American Medical Association, our employers, or even the patient.
The Oath is sworn to the Gods:
Apollo - God of healing, sunlight, knowledge, and protection of the young
Asclepius - God of medicine, healing, rejuvenation and physicians
Hygieia - Goddess of good health, cleanliness, and sanitation
Panacea - Goddess of universal remedy
I will reverence my master who taught me the art. Equally with my parents, will I allow him things necessary for his support, and will consider his sons as brothers. I will teach them my art without reward or agreement; and I will impart all my acquirement, instructions, and whatever I know, to my master’s children, as to my own; and likewise to all my pupils, who shall bind and tie themselves by a professional oath, but to none else.
This is a statement that anyone with a true mentor will understand and appreciate.
Something worth noting is that many aspiring doctors will have a difficult time finding a doctor of sufficient moral fortitude, intellectually curiosity, and bravery to call a “master” or “mentor.”
Let alone one with a deep professional friendship, to the extent that they pass on knowledge to their children and pupil.
I have been fortunate to have encountered doctors who have these traits. Often, these doctors are the pariah in their workplace. Simply associating with them leaves a bad taste in mouths of many - including administrators.
You can imagine how difficult it would be for trainees to stand by their side, with all of their career goals and ambitions on the line…
With regard to healing the sick, I will devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgement and means; and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.
The first element of the Oath sworn to the patient is getting their diet in order.
Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so.
The next element concerns conflict of interest.
How curious that even our ancient forefathers warn us about the corruption that financial interest would introduce into the work of a physician.
This element of our Oath has become so corrupted that we are far beyond the actions of independent doctors.
Our hospitals, universities, regulators, and government branches (including the NIH, CDC, and the Department of HHS) all have strong conflict of interest in the products that have been forced upon the market in recent years.
Moreover, I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant women, with a view to destroy the child.
The Hippocratic Oath opposing abortion will be a tough pill to swallow for many.
Some will tell themselves that the ancient greeks just weren’t ‘sophisticated’ enough about their understanding of moral virtue and ethical obligations.
What do you expect from the culture that gave rise to some of the most timeless sources of wisdom known to western civilization?
Hippocrates et al must have been wrong about this one…right?
Keep telling yourself that.
Further, I will comport myself and use my knowledge in a godly manner.
I will not cut for the stone, but will commit that affair entirely to the surgeons.
Here, we see a clear distinction between the physician and the surgeon.
This will be a point of personal reflection for my colleagues in the field.
Whatsoever house I may enter, my visit shall be for the convenience and advantage of the patient; and I will willingly refrain from doing any injury or wrong from falsehood, and from acts of an amorous nature, whatever may be the rank of those who it may be my duty to cure, whether mistress or servant, bond or free.
This statement encapsulates the pillars we mentioned earlier.
Do good. Do no harm. Treat all fairly.
‘Whether mistress or servant, bond (slave) or free.’
For the duty of the physician - as in the eye of God - all are created equal.
Thus, all will be treated equally (justice).
Whatever, in the course of my practice, I may see or hear, whatever I may happen to obtain knowledge of, if it be not proper to repeat it, I will keep sacred and secret within my own breast.
This is a statement on the signal importance of patient-doctor confidentiality.
The gravity of this obligation is one of the few elements which has survived to modern times.
Unfortunately, we are witness to forces which seek to degrade this right of the patient, and duty of the physician.
If I faithfully observe this oath, may I thrive and prosper in my fortune and profession, and live in the estimation of posterity; or on breach thereof, may the reverse be my fate!”
After everything that has been done to us “for our safety,” who among you doubt that the Oath has not just been violated, but desecrated?
Desecrated by those in every rank of the totem pole.
Every doctor who pushed you to accept an experimental injection.
Every restaurant that insisted you display private medical information to eat food.
Every employer who said you were too unclean to provide for your family.
Who among you doubt that if we remained steadfast in our duty to the Oath, much of the pain and suffering of recent years could have been avoided?
Who among you will join me in reviving this Oath?
Let the world hear it:
If I faithfully observe this oath, may I thrive and prosper in my fortune and profession.
Or on breach thereof, may the reverse be my fate!
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