Nearly two years ago, I wrote a series of posts (here
, and here
) and a column ("Harm Done," NRO
) about the ongoing deconstruction of the Hippocratic Oath and its devolution into meaningless pabulum in a society that increasingly embraces relativism as it rejects principles and firm concepts of right and wrong. Now, the LA Times
has discovered the trend in a column, byline Elena Conis. From her piece:
The Hippocratic oath was penned 2,400 years ago by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates who, sensibly, instructed doctors to treat patients to the best of their ability and respect each patient's privacy. But his professional guidelines also included lesser-known details: The oath advises doctors to avoid sexual relations with patients, treat their teachers as they would members of their own family and teach the art of medicine to the next generation "without fee." It also obliges doctors not to perform surgery, abortions or euthanasia.
Rather than being cause for concern, Conis celebrates:
...[A]bout one-fourth of all schools now opt to write their own [oaths]. The custom oaths do away with much of Hippocrates' more controversial material [like killing patients] but most retain his pledge of confidentiality. They also add provisions that Hippocrates left out: Many prohibit racism, for one, and other kinds of discrimination. Few, curiously, prohibit sexual relations with patients.
The act of pledge-taking in medicine seems poised to last, though the original content of Hippocrates' oath appears unlikely to endure. Which may be for the best. To date, scholars can't uniformly agree that Hippocrates even wrote the oath attributed to him. Some suspect it was written by one of the Pythagoreans, the ancient Greek philosophers whose lasting legacy -- geometry -- is the target of complaints issued by high school students, not doctors.
When I tell lay audiences that most doctors no longer take the Hippocratic Oath, which clears the way to permit some to engage in (now formerly) unprofessional acts (e.g., sex with patients) and still call themselves ethical, they are stunned and appalled. They know that the Oath was one of their best protections against abuse. Too bad Conis can't understand that simple truth and apparently embraces the ongoing deconstruction of professionalism that is afflicting our society in medicine, science, law, journalism, academia, and other areas of important endeavor.