The Hippocratic Oath
We give a nod of gratitude to those bound by an ancient document, with a very modern purpose: the Hippocratic Oath.
It's a contract more than 2,000 years old, and while it's evolved over the millennia, it's perhaps more sacred than ever, especially now that we're mired in a health crisis that Hippocrates himself could only have feared.
One modern version of the oath reads in part: "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."
- Doctors and nurses put retirement on hold to fight coronavirus: "It's a calling on my heart" ("CBS This Morning," 3/25/20)
Today there is no "chemist's drug" to fight the coronavirus (not yet, anyway), and on top of that, masks, gowns and gloves – those paper-thin barriers between sickness and health – are in impossibly high demand, which makes the oath's "warmth, care and understanding" promise dangerous to keep.
Our exhausted doctors and nurses are often forced to re-use masks; some are simply going without.
That may soon leave many of our healthcare workers unprotected, charging up this viral hill every day, knowing they may die on it.
- Hospitals are warning they aren't prepared for coronavirus ("CBS Evening News," 3/18/20)
- Doctors and nurses "scared to come to work" to treat coronavirus patients because of supply shortages ("CBS This Morning," 3/23/20)
- Trump's refusal to use wartime powers to direct scarce medical supplies has left states fighting it out (L.A. Times, 3/25/20)
- States are being forced into bidding wars to get medical equipment to combat coronavirus (Forbes, 3/28/20)
- New York City nursing manager dies after contracting coronavirus (CBS News, 3/26/20)
It's becoming increasingly possible that the physician you have today could be another physician's patient tomorrow.
There is no greater calling than tending to the sick and suffering.
But it doesn't require an oath; what it requires is courage, selflessness and compassion, all traits seemingly in ample supply in our medical community, thank goodness.
Because these are the souls who are our best hope.
Story produced by Aria Shavelson. Editor: Emanuele Secci.
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