Wk 4_Hypocratic Oath by Alana Chin

This week in lecture we talked about art in medicine and how medicine has evolved over time. At first, you wouldn’t think that art and medicine were related at all. However, medicine is primarily responsible for our ability to represent the human body. Years before the Renaissance, artists didn’t have a complete understanding as to what the human body really looked like. It was illegal at the time to dissect bodies and what they could see on the outside wasn’t enough to create an accurate representation. One doesn’t normally think about this but now it makes a lot of sense. One needs to know the simple things like body proportions, to more complex things like how muscles contract or relax and how that is visible during movement in order to realistically replicate the human body. And through medicine and dissections, artists were finally able to analyze and study the human body. With this breakthrough, medicine and art took off quickly and made huge impacts on society. As more and more people began to study and practice medicine, it became necessary that all physicians follow a standardized code of conduct and in 400 B.C.E, Hippocrates wrote “The Oath” for all medical practitioners to abide. It is interesting to read this oath today because there are many elements that wouldn’t be accepted in today’s society. The Oath is still necessary because it discusses patient confidentiality and devotion to the patient health without ulterior motives. It also talks about showing respect for patient’s homes during consultations and teaching pupils and apprentices about medicine. However, there are a few very controversial topics that would not go unnoticed in society today. The Oath specifically prohibits doctors from aiding in abortion or euthanasia, the act of painlessly putting someone to death if they are suffering from an incurable disease or condition. Although these two are still up for much debate today, there are still many situations where these treatments would be desirable for some. It is hard to imagine that euthanasia would be completely illegal, especially if a patient is suffering from a painful disease or terminal cancer. This issue of abortion is also a big can of worms as it deals with the freedom of choice and the definition of life.

With these two major topics in consideration, it is appropriate that this oath is revised to fit today’s society. The modern version of the Hypocratic Oath still discusses the topics of confidentiality and sets general guidelines for being a compassionate doctor. However, in the modern version, abortion and euthanasia are not mentioned. In fact, no specific medical procedures are banned in the new oath. Instead, there is more emphasis on the role and character of the doctor. This one dictates that the doctors should have warmth, sympathy, and understanding of their patients. It also warns the doctors against having too much pride and “playing God” or refusing to ask others for help or admitting that they do not know something. But most interestingly, the new oath ends with words of good luck and good fortune. It almost feels canned and overly optimistic. I feel that this closing is too forced and idealistic. This side link from the reading provides a critical comparison of the two oaths and is very interesting to read: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_today.html. In the end, I think that the modern oath diplomatically addresses the appropriate issues and sets the tone of responsibility and humility albeit overly optimistic.

Alana Chin

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