…the oath they took?
I was recently asked to give a presentation to high school students interested in healthcare careers. I was allotted thirty minutes to present on my path to become a dentist. As I prepared for the presentation, I struggled to keep my thoughts and concerns to a short window of time. I remember as I started my journey, my father was very insistent that I understood not just the positive aspects but also the complexity and challenges of being a dentist. As I talked to these young, interested students, my concern for their future careers were so different than that of my father’s for mine.
These students are leaving halls of learning that encourage critical thinking and respectful debate. When they leave their high school, they will be entering a wild world where college campuses are more focused on indoctrination than education. They will need to learn to swim upstream or be captured by the agenda that counters how they have been raised. When I was preparing my notes and reviewing with my husband, I was emotional and tearful for these young students. Their challenges are so much greater than I faced.
I started my presentation with asking a simple question…have you heard of the Hippocratic Oath? In a room of about twenty students, many whom want to go on to medical school, NOT ONE had heard of this commitment we make to our patients. As I read it to them, sadly I fear not many doctors recall the words they swore to uphold. Emphasis added:
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.