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The Doctor's Rede
As researched by Shea Thomas
As discussed in Other Golden Rules, there are a collection of ancient writings bearing close resemblance to the Rede. Of these, one seems especially striking. Like the Rede, it belongs to a class of people charged with exercising special care, wisdom, and knowledge. Like the Rede, it advises against harm in a fairly absolute way. Like the Rede, it was originally derived from a much longer work. Last, like the Rede, many of those who subscribe to it find themselves struggling with its precise meaning.
This adage, of course, is the modern medical profession's rule of "First, Do No Harm," and was first articulated by the Greek healer Hippocrates around 400 B.C.E. Listed below is the full and original Hippocratic Oath as translated by Francis Adams:
I SWEAR by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation- to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others.
I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!
Because of similarities between Rede and Oath, it's possible that by investigating the way modern healers understand and apply their own ethic statement, there may also exist a useful line of inquiry that would help us in our own understanding of the Rede.
To that end, listed below are just a few of the many online resources that examine the way the Hippocratic Oath has been made manifest in contemporary medicine.
American Medical Association: Principles of Medical Ethics
Bioethics For Beginners
U of Washington School of Medicine: Principles of Bioethics
Roger J. Rigterink previously maintained a site for readings In biomedical ethics, but the pages have apparently been disbanded.
Maurice Berstein: Bioethics Discussion Pages