Ethics of the Present Age
It is not easy to conceive the reason why the cultivation of ethics, a matter of primary importance to the success of medical practitioners, in the commencement of their career, should be almost totally neglected in the medical schools of an age so enlightened as the present. The fact is so, however incomprehensible it may appear. It is now the custom to initiate men into the mysteries of medicine, without the slightest allusion to the duties they owe each other or the public; or to the difficulties to be encountered on the commencement of their practice. Hence arise the frequent misunderstandings, disputes, and improper behaviour between medical practitioners, which are so disreputable and injurious to the dignity and interests of science. From some cause which remains to be explained, the majority of medical professors have excluded the discussion of ethics from their instructions; the faculties of physic and surgery have acted in like manner, so that there is no code of ethical institutes to be referred to, in the daily violations of those high moral principles, which have always characterized the true cultivators of medicine. The moral statutes and obligations which are required by some of our colleges, are so few, and so little known, that they are nearly useless; they are seldom observed, obeyed, or enforced. Indeed, the only works we have on the subject are those of Dr. John Gregory and Dr. Percival; but these are not deemed authority, nor are they perused by medical students. The former was published above half a century since; the latter previous to the changes made in the constitution of the profession by recent legislation—and both unsuited to the state of the profession at the present time. [44/45] There is, therefore, a fair field for further observations upon the subject.