Sunday, November 26, 2006
Minor violation of the Hippocratic oath?
While we can get certainly delve into the details of the Hippocractic oath, I generally interpret the oath as a commitment by those who choose to practice medicine to do all they can to help others and, conversely, to do everything possible to avoid harm.
I walked past the outpatient eye surgery clinic in which I got my eyes lasered a couple years ago and something about the sign on their door caught my eye. STOP! Don't read further. Instead, look at the sign and see if you can identify what bothered me.
It took me a little while to figure it out, but in the end I came to the conclusion that the Lakeshore Surgery Center has violated the Hippocratic Oath in a small way that I hope will never bring anyone to harm.
Here is my explanation: Imagine that your child (or spouse or best friend) hurt her eye in an accident. It is Sunday morning. You rush to the Lakeshore Surgery Center, because it is right around the corner and you've been there before. You are in a panic, your child wails in pain, you come to a screeching halt in front of the entrance, and rush to the door, child in your arms. Closed. You read the sign and then roar in agnoized frustration:
"The nearest hospital? I don't know where that is! What am I going to do now?"
See my point? It seems like the good doctors at this center could have and should have taken a bit more care with their sign. The generic "Please Go to the Nearest Hospital" reveals a lack of thoughtfulness in this context. There can only be one nearest hospital. So what the doctors should have done, to completely fulfill their oath to help and to avoid harm, is ask the sign company to show the name and address of the nearest hospital, and even add a little map showing how to get there.
You are thinking this is such a minor thing? Hey, it could save a life!