Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Hypocrite Oath… or Hippocratic?

I suppose all readers have heard of the Hippocratic Oath, that is, the traditional oath that new doctors make at the beginning of their profession and that contains a series of ethical commitments related to the practice of medicine. It was written by Hippocrates, or a disciple of his, in the fourth century BC.

For more than two thousand years, doctors have committed themselves to act, in different ways, for the good of their patients and not to harm them. With Christianity, an important change was made in the oath, so that it was no longer sworn by Apollo, Asclepius, Panacea and other gods, but before God, so that said oath was not only solemn, but also real and significant. In this way, doctors understood that, due to their profession, they acquired a commitment before men and also before God.

The rest of the oath, however, remained unchanged. Ultimately, true morality, what is good and what is bad for human beings, does not change over time, but is proper to human nature. Killing an innocent is equally unacceptable to modern man, to a crusader, to a Germanic barbarian or to a caveman.

Some time ago, I attended a graduation of a medical course at one of Madrid's universities. In it, as is traditional, those who graduated recited the Hippocratic Oath. I expected to hear the traditional oath, but I observed with horror that the new graduates (or, rather, those who organized the act) had changed God again for Apollo, Asclepius and the rest of the gods and goddesses. I guess it was due to the protests of someone who did not believe in God. It is curious how far the rejection of Christianity has gone: to prevent a minority from having to swear by a God in whom that minority did not believe but the others did, they had decided to swear by gods (Apollo and company) in which none of them believe.

At first and to think well of the organizers, I assumed that perhaps they had returned, by simple historical fidelity, to the original text of the oath... but it was immediately clear that it was not so. Although in the invocation to the Greek gods they had returned to the old text, they also had eliminated, without repairs, parts of the oath that had remained unchanged during thousands of years.

In the first place, they eliminated the phrase that says: "I will not administer drugs to any woman to cause her an abortion". Whoever thinks that the Church opposes abortion for purely religious reasons, can find in the Hippocratic Oath the testimony of more than two millennia of medicine that also condemns that monstrosity, as something unworthy of someone who heals people.

Secondly, they had eliminated the prohibition of euthanasia: "I will not give anyone deadly drugs even when they request it, nor will I give advice for this purpose". Euthanasia is not a modern invention. The temptation to reject life to escape suffering has always been present. However, the graduation organizers probably felt very modern in accepting what was already a crime for the ancient Greeks.

So, they only kept in the oath three types of commitments, those that, so vague in their formulation, hardly mean anything ("I will keep my life and my art pure"), those that are concrete but will never have to be fulfilled (as the obligation to teach medicine to the children of their teachers free of charge) and those that the law obliges them to comply with (such as professional secrecy).

In other words, the new doctors rejected any commitment that would force them to behave in a difficult manner, that opposed social pressures or that could limit their professional opportunities in any way. In simple words, they swore... they were going to do whatever they wanted.

I sincerely believe that an era begins in which Christian doctors will have to give a courageous testimony before other doctors and before society. They will suffer rejection and, in many cases, ridicule because they are faithful to the truth and defend human life at all times. In return, they will also have the opportunity to be, in the midst of the world, a current image of the one who came to heal our wounds and surrender to death so that we could have life in abundance.

Bruno M.

Source: Infocatolica