Is There a Hippocratic Specialist in the House?

Contrary to what I have believed for a couple of decades, "First, do no harm" is not in the Hippocratic Oath, although there is a promise that, "With regard to healing the sick, ... I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage."

At least, the promise was in the original. It's interesting how the ancient Greek oath has changed in its modern form.

The original:

    I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius the surgeon, likewise Hygeia 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.

    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.

    With regard to healing the sick, I will devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgment and means; and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.

    Nor shall any man's entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so. Moreover, I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.

    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.

    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 (in an especial manner) 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.

    Whatever, in the course of my practice, I may see or hear (even when not invited), 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.
    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!

And the modern, written by Louis Lasagna:

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:...

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humility and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Really, the modern version is so different that it ought to be called the Lasagna Oath, I think.

So, what about "First, do no harm"? Possibly derived from the Hippocratic Oath or Hippocratic writings, it apparently made its appearance in British and American medical ethics in the 19th century.

Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means "first, do no harm." The phrase is sometimes recorded as primum nil nocere.

Non-maleficence, which is derived from the maxim, is one of the principal precepts of bioethics that all healthcare students are taught in school and is a fundamental principle throughout the world. Another way to state it is that, "given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good." It reminds the health care provider that they must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do. It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit.

Non-maleficence is often contrasted with its corollary, beneficence.


Ymar Sakar said...

Nor shall any man's entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so. Moreover, I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.

Poisoners and assassins hold the power of death. Doctors were only respected because they promoted the power of life, even though that power could easily be used to promote death as well.

The Greeks would have understood that dichotomy, using wrestling, martial arts, as well as their medical professions. In China, the healer and the warrior were often combined together.

Tom said...

Indeed. Today, of course, doctors are our executioners as well. I have heard the argument that we should return to hanging or some other mode of execution just so we do not get doctors used to executing people. And then there's euthanasia.

Ymar Sakar said...

Medical ethics have been going down hill ever since the Left took over significant parts of the medical profession and nurse unions.

Now doctors are going around asking how many guns a child's family has. I wonder what they will use that info for...

National healthcare was just the strategic cap on a logistical base they had already been subverting.

I've heard that certain universities in 2001 California, had it particularly bad on "medical ethics". Wasn't any close to an actual ethic. A lot of influences from the atheists. A good example of what kind morality atheism hews to. Basically, Power and Authority decides everything.