Ancient Times

  • Richard Colgan


Physicians were put on notice in the time of Hammurabi, 1700 years before the common era, that they would be rewarded for a job well done and held personally accountable if in their interactions with their patients harm was done. Not coincidentally perhaps, 1300 years later Hippocrates issued his first rule of medicine: “first do no harm.” In ancient times, we saw the physician’s understanding of illness move away from a long-held belief that suffering was an expression of God’s displeasure, to how illness began to be explained by studying the patient. The skills of observation were highlighted by Hippocrates, with the promise that if the physician was discerning enough, evaluated honestly, assisted nature in prescribing therapeutics he may also prognosticate what would yet be seen. The ancient Greeks laid some of the most important foundations of the art of medicine, as we know it today. Some of the most important tenets of good doctoring and ethical practice can be traced back to Hippocrates, Socrates, and Plato. In this chapter we explore the origin of some important traits which great healers share: temperance, modesty, the power of teaching our patients, and learning from our patients.


Medical Student Protected Health Information Hippocratic Oath Socratic Dialogue Concerned Friend 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family & Community MedicineUniversity of Maryland School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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