Medical Ethics of Hippocrates
The duties and qualifications of medical practitioners were never more fully exemplified than by the conduct of Hippocrates, or more eloquently described than by his pen.1 He admitted no one to his instructions without the solemnity of an oath, the chief obligations of which were, “the most religious attention to the advantages and cure of the sick, the strictest chastity, and most inviolable secrecy about private or domestic matters, which might be seen or heard during attendance, and which ought not to be divulged.”2 The father of physic strongly inculcated the necessity of the cultivation of piety and virtue; and held that his disciples should excel in religion and morals. He also maintained that they should acquire the most perfect knowledge of every form of disease, and of the best mode of treatment. He considered calumny and illiberality disgraceful, and the disclosure of the errors of a contemporary highly culpable. He was of opinion, that the morals of a medical practitioner should be excellent and unexceptionable, conjoined with gravity and humanity. He ought to be correct in every custom of life; and demean himself honourably and politely towards every rank in society, and thus will he promote the glory of his profession. To these precepts nature is the best guide. He is to retain in his recollection all remedies, their mode of preparation and application, and the use of all mechanical means which are employed for the cure of diseases. This is the beginning, middle, and end of medicine. Let him be cautious in his prognosis, and predict only those events sanctioned by observation and experience. In his approach to the sick, let his [9/10] countenance be mild and humane, not rough, proud, or inhuman; and let him evince a sincere desire to afford relief; and employ all remedies with diligence and caution. He should be ready to answer all questions, establish constancy in perturbations of mind, allay tumult by reason, and be ever ready to afford relief in all emergencies. He is never to exhibit an improper or dangerous remedy, even to a common malefactor; but try those medicines approved by the majority of the profession. When a patient desires popular remedies, he is to be cautioned against them, but left to his own discretion. But if attendance is commenced without remuneration, the sick must not be abandoned. Any discussion relative to pecuniary matters is injurious, especially in acute diseases. When disease is rapid, there is no time to arrange concerning reward; it has no influence on a good practitioner, who is only anxious to preserve life, and enjoy the more noble gratification, the universal esteem of mankind. It is much better to accuse those cured of disease of ingratitude, than deny them aid when in danger.