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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Duty Bound


The doctor is duty bound to proffer options. Hippocratic Oath and all that:

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 [that] 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 to 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 humbleness 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.

This Oath? This Oath is admirable and noble. Of that there is no doubt. But, even so, there still remain these matters of life and death. These are questions that have no easy answers. These are questions that tear at one’s guts, rendering the questioner a Prometheus chained to a rock.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Lilith said...

Strangely enough, I've never read this. It's lovely. Too bad doctors don't follow it more often.

As for life and death, those are age old questions. We will all die, that's a given. What matters is how we live I think. What makes life worth living for you Jonas?

Wed Jan 05, 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Wine and Words said...

The twin traps. Wow. Never read this either. I like holistic medicine...would rather go that route prior to any other. Haven't the money for it now though. Insurance never covers such practitioners. Too bad.

I think there is also a huge disconnect between dying and how we die. Just saving or prolonging life, is not necessarily living.

Wed Jan 05, 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger June Calender said...

The oath is noble and most doctors, at least early on, truly aspire to it. Beautiful, like that rose in your picture once was before the addition of blood. For doctors that bloody addition is multifold: rules, expectations, paperwork, drug reps swearing the latest thing is miraculous, patients demanding a pill at least, malpractice suits, personal ambition. I was married to a doctor. A good man but human with an ex-partner who was too weakly human and became a scary doctor. Your picture really gets to me because it says SO much about the profession.

As for death, I agree, it's the dying part we don't want to think about. But the hospice movement is going strong and most are quite good. Not enough people know about hospice. I hope the current circus in Washington doesn't do anything to put the kibbash on hospice.

Wed Jan 05, 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Kass said...

Funny. I thought it was chocolate on the rose. Shows you where my mind is.

I too, like June, was married to a doctor, a Family Physician. He was the last of the old-time docs. He treated the profession as more of an art than a business. At the end of his life, his profession failed him and he died of an allergic reaction to the chemotherapy for his brain tumor.

Even though we were not together at the time, I felt a great loss for the departure of the only Dr. I knew who still made house calls.

Thu Jan 06, 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I tried to answer your question here, Lilith

You're singing to the choir, Annie. Me likes.

I'm with you all the way, June. My Mom received hospice care at the end of her days. No extraordinary interventions. No feeding tubes, technology, cruel and sterile therapies. Just tender concern. Comfort. Respect. I revere the hospice staff who did so much.

Your mind is truly in a good place, Kass, if you see chocolate when others see blood. I envy you.

I toddled about in an age when doctors made house calls. Quaint notion, today, I know. A photojournalist I truly revere, W. Eugene Smith, captured the essence of that decades ago:

Witness, contemplate the “Country Doctor”.

Thu Jan 06, 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Lilith said...

Very nice Jonas. For me, it's making someone's day a little brighter, even mine.

Take care.

Thu Jan 06, 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Kass said...

Thanks for the link, Jonas. That Life magazine was issued the year of my birth and it looks slightly familiar as my parents never threw away any of their magazines. Yes, this is the clean-out I'm facing at Mom's house.

Sun Jan 09, 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

I always aspire to this but in reality, it is difficult to always hit that mark. Too many times, I am bamboozled by tricky insurance companies and I am convinced that the entire health care system needs to be re-booted. I went into this to help, too often I end up sitting for hours with bureaucratic peons, trying to convince them that yes, this child needs to be treated and no, this was not a pre-existing condition. I fill out endless forms regarding presenting symptoms and eligibility requirements.

We actually have a specialist in our office who does NOTHING but plow through government documents and insurance mumbo jumbo. I have the utmost respect for her because if I had her job, I would end up quitting.

Sun Jan 09, 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Bella said...

hi there, interesting blog, don't know from whence I came, or where I'm going, but for now I landed here...lol...

Mon Jan 10, 07:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Yes, Maria, our health care "system" would do Kafka proud. It needn't be that way, exceptin' that powerful, monied interests strive mightily to ensure it remains this way. Sigh.

Hello, Bella. You're welcome to kick off your shoes and sit a spell.

Mon Jan 10, 08:49:00 PM  

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