Medical Ethics of the Middle Ages
First of all things, a medical man ought to exercise piety, and give due honour to the Supreme Being. Next, he ought to render to every one his due; obedience to his superiors, concord to his equals, and equity to his inferiors. He ought to preserve a clean heart, and silent tongue, and cultivate every virtue. The whole praise of virtue consists in action. He is to avoid anger, and suppress all its perturbations, intemperance and insolence, having always before his eyes the great deformity of mind produced in those who give way to them, and the amiableness and gracefulness of those who avoid them. Sensuality, intemperance, and dissipation, produce concupiscence and carnal gratification, which increase rapidly, and would eventually ruin a medical practitioner. These are to be strenuously avoided, as well as every luxury. Continence consists in moderating pleasure; gluttony, debauchery, and ignominy, in abusing it. An incontinent, or an intemperate man never rose to eminence, and is completely unfit for medical practice. Men of loose and dissolute habits, and of excursive amours, debase themselves to the rank of the brute creation, and render the mind stupid and inert, and totally unfit for the pursuits of science. Such profligate and abandoned characters cannot be found in the history of the medical profession – in truth, men so vitiated could not long pursue the practice of medicine. What man would commit the care of his wife, daughters, or female relatives to a medical practitioner, if such could be found, of so debased and brutal character – to a man burning with desire of violating the conjugal and vestal honours of his neighbour's family. Hence the necessity of practising chastely and honourably; and hence the preference which is given to those members of the profession who have entered into the sacred bonds of matrimony, especially in obstetric practice. Every one is [27/28] bound to support his own and the professional dignity, with noble sentiments, probity, and humanity.