Sunday, February 26, 2006

Abortion - Execution

I found two posts in the last few days that echoed the contradiction that I noted between the ethics of execution and that of abortion. Rev. Cwirla & Rev. Alms both noted this. I really liked Rev. Alm's connection to the Hippocratic Oath. It gives me a good seque into another thing that I heard on NPR.

I was listening to further interviews in regards to the postponed execution of convicted rapist and murderer Michael Morales in California. At one point, they interviewed a doctor who represented a Medical Association. While personally opposed to the death penalty, he felt that doctors should be allowed by their association to participate in an execution as part their care for their patients. When the interviewer asked, "But what about the Hippocratic Oath? 'First of all, do no harm.'"

This doctor replied that he felt that the medical profession uses that as a straw man argument, they only drag it out when it suits them. Then he did the "higher criticism" thing. He said that the Hippocratic Oath is from another time. Things are different now. It also says that doctors are only required to treat males, and that they should keep patient information confidential. Now doctors are often REQUIRED to break confidentiality. He quoted statistics that most medical schools no longer use the oath, and that others use a modern revision. It sounded so familiar! The poor Hippocratic Oath has gone the way of the Bible. No longer relevant to modern man.

I was curious, tho, about the "only required to treat males," so I looked up the classical translation. I believe I misunderstood that - the oath only requires that they TEACH males. But a reading of the classical text also shows that the oath says..."I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy." (Emphasis added)

Clearly, Hippocrates was able to equate an "abortive remedy" with ending a life. And I suppose that when the Bible is relegated to the status of a quaint historic text with nothing to offer modern society, it should not be suprising that the Hippocratic Oath is sharing that fate. While the Oath obviously does not share the authority of God-Breathed Scripture, it is a shame to know that so few doctors ascribe to it. There was a time, at least, when even pagans knew to value human life.

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