Hippocratic or Hypocritic?

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I am beginning to examine the Moral Argument for the existence of God with my students.  Cardinal Newman argued that a sense of morality, or ethical certainty,  was shared by all humans.  This inner voice of conscience, he argued was the voice of God.

In route to the examination of this point, I will be taking my students on a side trip into medical ethics, in which we will examine the Hippocratic Oath and its implications.  Are the values contained within it a statement of professional conduct only, or is it a humanitarian and moral document? We will then question if the “universal” nature of the oath among physicians makes its implementation universal, or is it a relativist document in actual practice?

These questions are needed in order for us to examine our own moral compass.  Are we absolutists (an ideally Christian view in which morality is God-given), or is our ethical life subject to variables and personal opinion?

Auschwitz provides us with a case study to then examine the oath.  Dr. Gisella Perl, a Jewish gynecologist made several (what Primo Levi would call) “grey zone” decisions while incarcerated in the camp.  She conducted abortions, and risky operations without adequate equipment or supplies.  Did she fail in her oath?  Is our view in judging her absolute?  Was she being merely utilitarian, as she did abortions to save the mothers from the gas chamber?  In stark contrast to the “situation” Perl found herself, we have Dr. Josef Mengele.  Can we in the “name of science” excuse his “medical practice” in the camp?

Where did the Hippocratic Oath apply in the dark world of the camp?  Was it stretched, broken, or just ignored? If a straight forward, precisely worded document can be so treated, then what about “still small voice?”

Free moral agency is a fancy way of saying “we make our decisions.” God did not create robots. He allows humans to make mistakes.  Does this mean He doesn’t speak?  No, but it does mean we don’t have to listen.  It is here that the moral argument hinges.  Many will say the inconsistency of human action, “proves” their is no absolute voice. But is it so?  Maybe we just aren’t listening.



5 thoughts on “Hippocratic or Hypocritic?

  1. God is the creator of all. So He is found in everything. He does not need us, never did, but we need Him. Only those who are saved through Jesus Christ are able to “hear” God and that is through the Holy Spirit. It could be a stranger on the street, a recurring dream or a rock on the road. In order for the Holy Spirit to move He must be invited. It is so very simple to inderstand, all the answers are found in the Bible, one only needs to look.

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  2. I disagree with Cardinal Newman on his premise that we are all born with a sense of morality. As far as ethics are concerned among physicians, I can say as a retired nurse, many in the medical field promise “to do no harm.” Yet doctors and nurses have committed mass murder in our history. There are certain mental illnesses which I believe are Satan’s playground. People like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer thrived on the suffering of their victims as they carried out their sadistic torture. To their death they were not able to identify with any form of empathy or sympathy.
    I explain to those I want to share the existence of God with, that miracles abound in people’s life that are unexplainable other than prayer to a creator by those in need. I have witnessed medical miracles (including my husband who has been used as an example to others by doctors when they speak of hope where there is seemingly no hope of medical science saving a person.) Answered prayer when no other explanation is possible for a miracle, has been present in every case I witnessed as a nurse.

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