After reading Li Shifu's article on Taoist medicine (see the webpage or my previous blog post), in which the problems of money and medicine were discussed (I cited in my previous blog some lines from the Taoist temple page about the effects of selling herbs merely for profit. Below are the main lines that refer to problems when doctors are too much after the money.), I thought to look to the Hippocratic Oath for reference in our own Western tradition to this same issue.
Nowadays Great Medicine and High Medicine are very rare, Intermediate Medicine and Low Medicine are both in the majority.
Firstly, the doctors qualities:
1. Doctors must regard the Way and Virtue as their root and Compassion as their mindset.
In the same way a mother loves her child. The Doctor must regard sickness as if suffered by one’s own body.
Nowadays people, in order to gain income, are able to write out prescriptions for patients and prescribe expensive drugs that are not crucial and insignificant for the patient’s disease. They look upon the sufferers of disease as trees that shed money when shaken – purely a ready source of income and profit.
2. Doctor’s’ knowledge is not of concentrated effort and energy. They do not know how to achieve change, have no lineage of transmission, prescribe drugs disorderly, and use pharmaceuticals disorderly.
3. Doctors do not know the principles of the Yi Jing-The Book of Changes. They do not understand Yin-Yang and Five Elemental-phases’ true meaning. They do not grasp the unfathomable mysterious workings of spirits and ghosts.
And in regards to the Daoist healer: “The already crooked, how can he cure people?"
Does our Hippocratic Oath discuss these issues? The Wikipedia page on the Oath has both a translation of the original Oath and a modern version. Of course, one of the obvious differences is that the old Oath swears to the Greek gods and pays respect to one's master and family, while the new seems to swear to science - the faceless god of our modern, godless world.
The Oath has no direct reference to compensation, besides in the old:
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.
Both versions, however, do make reference to acting for the benefit of the sick and I confidently assume this implies thinking of the sick over thinking of the money one can make from them. Further, the overall tone of the Oath is naturally towards being upright and righteous.
From the original:
Further, I will comport myself and use my knowledge in a godly manner.
From the modern:
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 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.
Interesting that the modern version is quite holistic, referring to the prevention of disease, the art of sympathy and understanding, and remembering one's role in society. It does not, however, mention diet as overtly as the first (though it is still implied):
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.
Another medical oath is the Declaration of Geneva:
- I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
- I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;
- I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
- The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
- I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
- I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
- My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;
- I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;
- I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;
- I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
- I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.