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The Oath

Wed, Sep 19, 2001 08:30PM -0600

I know there is work to be done, and yet I still sit idly philosophizing about the world's workings.

So I will try to keep the politics to a minimum. In a way, I can avoid the hard questions. Thanks to the profession I am aspiring to, my stance is actually quite unambiguous.

OK, maybe that's not really true, but it certainly makes it easier to think so.

So the oath I'm supposed to take (no, it's not the original Oath of Hippocrates, but this is what the graduates at my school usually swear) basically outlines the fact that despite how I feel personally, my only role is to help people, or at least do no harm.

Which is actually really cool, if I were ever to be drafted after getting my M.D. (I hear that the only weapon corpsmen, i.e., field medics, get if they have to go on patrol is a sidearm. Apparently because of the Oath, they can't carry rifles. Though maybe it's more a practical consideration. Maybe it would be difficult to carry a complete medkit and a rifle at the same time....) In theory, that means that if the Supreme Enemy collapsed right in front of me, I would be ethically compelled to treat him or her. (Although in practice, who knows what the people around me might do....)

So in my mind, this means that I can't ethically advocate any sort of killing, whether it is just or unjust. Sure, people might invoke the fact that killing some people just might save others (which is a realistic ethical consideration for a physician and is often times the case even in peace time), but hell, I'm not supposed to play God. Thanks to informed consent, power of attorney, and living wills, I might not ever have to pull any plugs without consulting other people.

In other words, if you want to kill someone, do it yourself. Don't ask me to do it. Or even ask me to support you while you're doing it. Not that I can hate you and refuse to take care of you if you do. But whatever the case, I've got my Oath to keep.

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