Week 4_The Hippocratic Oath and Medicine_Long Lau

Referred to as an “Art” by Hippocrates in the Hippocratic Oath, the discipline of medicine is indeed a valuable art to human kind. Traditionally, the aesthetics of this art came not from external beauty, but from the very essence of life itself; a healthy, functional human body was the ultimate art piece. Plastic surgery (surgery conducted to reshape a particular body part) was originally a practice to help injured persons to regain a normal life. However, time has pushed forward and in today’s world, the strife for beauty seems to be of equal weight to the preservation of health. Plastic surgery now encompasses not only the above practice, but also the area of cosmetic surgery (surgery conducted to improve one’s appearance rather than to restore health). In the classic version of  the oath, physicians must swear to “give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel”; the modern version written by Louis Lasagna makes no mention of such rule and it is ethical as long as the doctor gives “warmth, sympathy, and understanding” to the patient. Botox, one of the deadliest poisons extracted from bacteria, are now commonly injected in small doses as a treatment to those who wishes to regain a few years of youth, at least in appearance. It is one thing to perform a risky surgery for the removal a tumor, it is another to perform one for raising self-esteem. Then again, doctors are obligated to respect the decisions of the patients and are to try their best to help within their capabilities. What the oath does not seem to address is that while doctors should have an understanding for the patient, they should also be obligated to provide the patients with an understanding of the treatment; this includes the consequences as well as risks. This way, the patients can make more intelligent decisions about his or her own body.

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