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From: (Steven B. Harris )
Subject: Re: M.D.'s Oath, was Re: Chiropractic Oath
Date: 07 Aug 1995

In <405fov$iug@nntp.Stanford.EDU> sworking@leland.Stanford.EDU (Scott
Workinger) writes:

>I was recently informed that many M.D.'s no longer take this oath. I'd be
>curious to know the content of their current oath, if they choose to
>commit to one.
>In article <4018fu$>, (Ty Brogan)
>|> I saw some posts with two chiropractors debating aspirin. They
>|> mentioned their oaths and I was wondering how there oath differs from
>|> the Hippocratic Oath:
>|>  THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH: I swear by Apollo Physician, by Aesculapius, by
>|>  Health, by Heal-all, and by all the gods and goddesses, making them
>|>  witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and
>|>  judgment, this oath and this indenture: To regard my teacher in this
>|>  art as equal to my parents; to make him partner in my livelihood, and
>|>  when he is in need of money to share mine with him; to consider his
>|>  offspring equal to my brothers; to teach them this art, if they
>|>  require to learn it, without fee or indenture; and to impart precept,
>|>  oral instruction, and all the other learning, to my sons, to the sons
>|>  of my teacher, and to pupils who have signed the indenture and sworn
>|>  obedience to the physicians' Law, but to none other. I will use
>|>  treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but
>|>  I will never use it to injure or wrong them. I will not give poison
>|>  to anyone though asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a plan.
>|>  Similarly I will not give a pessary to a woman to cause abortion. But
>|>  in purity and in holiness I will guard my life and my art. I will not
>|>  use the knife on sufferers from stone, but I will give place to such
>|>  as are craftsmen therein. Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will do
>|>  so to help the sick, keeping myself free from all intentional
>|>  wrongdoing and harm, especially from fornication with woman or man,
>|>  bond or free. Whatsoever in the course of practice I see or hear (or
>|>  even outside my practice in social intercourse) that ought never to
>|>  be published abroad, I will not divulge, but consider such things to
>|>  be holy secrets. Now if I keep this oath, and break it not, may I
>|>  enjoy honor, in my life and art, among all men for all time; but if I
>|>  transgress and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.

Many medical schools use a version of this oath, but an updated one.
Obviously the guild stuff no longer applies, and I'm not required to
treat all my medical school profs like my parents, as they have their
own retirement plans.  Doctors' children are not guaranteed a medical
education anymore either-- their MCATs may be too low, or their skin
may be too white, or some combination of these modern maladies.
Prostaglandin "pessaries" of sorts are still used to complete abortions
miscarriages), and are used in good practice even by doctors who don't
do "therapeutic" abortions.  Surgeons are now physicians, too, and
certainly cannot promise not to "cut" people ever for bladder stones:
sometimes it has to be done!  If euthanasia becomes legal, a few
doctors are going to need to administer poisons to patients who ask: in
some (few but certainly existant) cases, it's the kindest action (and
if you disagree, tell me why vets, who really love animals, feel the
same).  For that matter, even now, very large doses of morphine are
certainly poisonous but are used anyway, if necessary, for terminal
patients in great pain.  The other advice given in the oath is pretty
good advice, and most of it winds up in medical school oaths.  It was
in mine, although I cannot find the text around here at the moment.

                                             Steve Harris, M.D.

From: (Steven B. Harris )
Subject: Re: Help Save a Man's Life (anti-euthanasia nuts)
Date: 09 Oct 1995
Newsgroups: ab.politics,talk.euthanasia,soc.culture.canada,,,ont.general,,can.infohighway,can.general,

In <459ofn$> (B.J. Wilson)

>>Hi Steven, What Oath do you take seriously?<<

   Answer: Being a bit of an egoist, I take seriously only my own
oath **to myself** (and nobody else) to help people who ask for
it.  That's it.  The Hippocratic oath was a nice guild oath in
its day, but that's basically what it is.  It's mostly concerned
with trade-protection, and keeping the medical trade in the
family.  If we followed it to the letter today, no doctor's sons
or daughters would ever be denied admission to medical school.
Nor would urologists or any surgeon be regarded as physicians,
and certainly wouldn't take this oath.  RU-486 could never be
used as an abortifacient, no matter what the reason, and so on,
and so on.  This thing is not scripture, and I speak as a person
who is not even very impressed with scripture.

    >>I do not accept the 'nazi' name that was being put on Dr.s
and I for one, have nursed concentration camp suvivers, However,
no matter how noble the thought of euthenasia to relieve a
person's horrific illness and/or situation, I personally think
that doctors should petition whatever government they operate
under to give permission to prescribe pain medication and
treatment (and this includes counseling for dealing with chronic
disease) the patient (not family, third party/organization, or
doctors), needs. I found when I was dealing with dying people
(not hindrances or financial 'problems), that if the discomforts
of living/dying with a chronic, painful, disease were heandled
with proper care and and respect, they did not want to commit

   Comment: Well, you didn't work with enough of them, then.
It's one of the great fairy-tales of our time that 100% of the
requests for euthanasia are due to inadequate pain control, and
that with enough morphine, all these problems will all just go
away and not bother anyone any more.  Wrong.  True, *some* of
them go away-- but unfortunately for our ethical comfort, others
do not.  The reason for this is that there is far more to quality
of life than just being free of pain.  To be sure, morphine is
God's own medicine, just as Ostler said.  But it doesn't fix

   If your bones are so moth-eaten by tumor that every time you
roll over you feel something break, then if you have enough
morphine in you it may not hurt too much-- but at the same time
you may not like where you're "at," either.   If you have a tumor
growing out of your face so large that people who visit you turn
away in disgust, and it dips into your coffee when you try to
drink it, you may not have pain either, but you've still lost
something rather important.  Ditto, if you have a tumor with a
really fetid odor.  If you have AIDS and diarrhea, you may be too
weak to get off the couch and into the bathroom to clean
yourself, and so may have to lie in your own feces in your
parents' house until somebody does something about it.  That may
bother you.  Or, it may not.  Dignity (and here is the key) is
different things to different people.  What is merely an irksome
nursing problem to one person with stores of dignity from
somewhere else (Stephen Hawking) may be the last straw for
somebody else less exalted, who simply does not want to go on
living like that, or put the people he or she loves through any
more of that.

   All these things I've seen, and many more.  Far be it from me
to decide how much indignity any human being should have to take,
before deciding to call it quits.  That's an *individual*
decision, and not one for you or me to make on behalf of somebody
who is capable of having a say about it.  You seem to have missed
that basic and fundamental idea of personal autonomy and ultimate
privacy.  What *bugs* me is your attitude that there is no limit
for anyone, and that every single dying person, no matter what,
should be obligated (yea, forced by law) to put up with any
indignity whatsoever, so long as it's not "physically painful."
That, sir, puts you squarely on my Little-Tin-God list.  You
think *doctors* are paternal?  We're _nothing_ compared with the
folks such as yourself who are quite sure they know exactly how
everybody has to die, in order to be moral about the process.

   Here's my deal: you can decide how YOU die.  Be my guest.  If
you like, you can make it as disgusting as you want, while
refusing to feel degraded.  I'll admire you for your force of
will, if that's your trip.  If I'm your doctor I'll let you leave
this Earth your way-- even with your skin peeling off, paralyzed,
weighing 70 lbs, and in diapers, if that's what you want.  Decide
it for yourself, or even help decide it for your family.  BUT
leave the rest of humanity--- other people who want to make
different decisions for themselves-- alone.  Fundamentally, their
problems about their illness and their dying process are none
of your frigging business, unless they ask for your input.  Which
most of them won't.

                                 Steve Harris, M.D.

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