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Doctor Curmudgeon® “I Swear by Apollo…”


By Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D. FAAP

Although Doctor Curmudgeon® has been practicing medicine longer than she can remember; one of the things she does recall from those early days of her medical training is “The Hippocratic Oath.”

She could hardly believe that she was actually allowed to graduate and receive the degree of M.D.

Expecting to awaken from a dream, she found herself in graduate regalia stepping to the podium when her name was called. Before grasping the document from the outstretched hand of the dean, she fully expected him to say, “Oh, so sorry, you are not getting a medical degree. It’s a mistake. Just go sit down.”

For her, this was truly an impossible, improbable and astounding thing that had come to pass.

Although wanting to be a physician for years, she never really thought that she could accomplish this.

And so it was that the Hippocratic Oath meant a great deal to that young physician.

Not able to call to mind which version she swore to, she remembers snippets, which, due to so many passing years and a state of euphoria at the time of recitation with her fellow students …are mere paraphrases.

There were the beautiful words of abstaining from wrong doing and doing no harm. The phrase “First do no harm,” was not part of the original oath, but had been recited by her classmates. Doctor Curmudgeon® cherished this as the foundation of how she would practice and care for those who placed their trust in her.

There were thoughts of holding her teachers in high regard and sharing her knowledge with her pupils. Of course, she would honor these. She had already been blessed with a superb education.

Hippocrates was a Greek physician and a contemporary of Plato He was born in 460 BCE and had a reputation as a fine teacher and physician.

But was Hippocrates the author of this oath?

It seemed to have been written by Anonymous (one of the most prolific authors ever to carve in stone, dip a reed into some kind of ink and write in papyrus or take a quill in hand).

This code of ethics for physicians, in many versions has been around for centuries.

In what is believed to be the original oath there are passages to which Doctor Curmudgeon® cannot swear: such as condemning abortion.

However, there are passages of beauty that present ethical standards by which to practice medicine

Somehow, it has a nice, calming feeling to sit back, close one’s eyes; remember a different time and think:

“I swear by Apollo 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:”

.. Doctor Curmudgeon® is Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D., a physician-satirist. This column originally appeared on SERMO, the leading global social network for doctors.

SERMO www.sermo.com “talk real world medicine”

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