Medical Ethics (CPE Week #8)

by jpserrano on August 3, 2011 · 0 comments

I wonder if anyone has ever read the Hippocratic Oath.  Here is the text, just in case you haven’t.

I swear by Apollo the Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods, and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:
To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art–if they desire to learn it–without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken the oath according to medical law, but to no one else.
I will apply dietic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.
I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.
Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.
What I may see or hear in the course of treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep myself holding such things shameful to be spoken about.
If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honoured with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

The M.D. was teaching us about Bio-ethics told us that this oath is still taken by doctor’s today.  I don’t understand how this can possibly be true since it’s terribly antiquated and needs heavy exegesis in order to get the meaning.

He defined 4 principles of Bio ethics.

  1. Autonomy:  Persons have the right to make their own choices and pursue their own goals.
  2. Non-Malificence: A doctors duty is to avoid harm.
  3. Beneficence: Doctors have a duty to do good.
  4. Justice: Doctor’s have the duty to treat everyone with fairness. “Equals treated equally”

When an ethical situations come ups it is because two or more principles are in conflict.

The way to approach ethical dilemmas is by asking and answering the following:

  1. What is the ethical problem? (what should/ought to be done)
  2. What are the competing principles?
  3. Who is the decision maker?
  4. What are the options and why?

I found the information in today’s class to be very informative and helpful.  I appreciate that I now have a framework to address bio-ethical questions within my own community.

I would only add the following question:

  • What does the Bible and my own Christian tradition say about what ought to be done?

I think this question is important for the Christian.  Here’s why; although we have autonomy in regards to the medical arena, we are not autonomous in regards of our relationship to God, which should inform our every decision.


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