The Hypocrisy of the Hippocratic Oath

hippocrates-oath-hypocrisy

Ever since I began my journey of taking my health into my own hands, I have found the most influential historical figure, who keeps coming up in every Paleo, whole foods, or Weston A. Price–inspired website or blog, to be Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine.

There are some historical figures whose lives and words can’t help but become ideological footballs, such as the Founding Fathers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and hmm, I dunno—Jesus. People misquote them or even fabricate quotes and historical anecdotes to back up their opinions. Hippocrates is a great example of this, with his name and (skewed) words being used in allopathic medicine for the ethical oath doctors take when they begin their practice.

The Hippocratic Oath

hippocratic oath

The original oath, written in Greek, is from the Hippocratic Corpus, a body of 60 early Ancient Greek medical works strongly associated with him and his teachings (Wiki). It is translated:

I swear by Apollo The Healer, by Asclepius, by Hygieia, by Panacea, and by all the Gods and Goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.

To hold my teacher in this art equal to my own parents; to make him partner in my livelihood; when he is in need of money to share mine with him; to consider his family as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they want to learn it, without fee or indenture; to impart precept, oral instruction, and all other instruction to my own sons, the sons of my teacher, and to indentured pupils who have taken the physician’s oath, but to nobody else.

I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion. But I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art. I will not use the knife, not even, verily, on sufferers from stone, but I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein.

Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free. And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession, as well as outside my profession in my intercourse with men, if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets.

Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I transgress it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.[5]

There’s a lot there, but I’d like to discuss the section I’ve bolded. There are three very important discrepancies between these parts of the oath and modern medicine.

The Lasagna Oath

Since the previous makes mention of Greek Gods and prayers to them, I guess it started to get a little awkward for modern physicians, so Louis Lasagna revamped it as follows:

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

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.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

The newer version seems to have lost the plot of the original oath. Some things are curious additions, such as the sudden counterpoint to the power to save a life, “the power to take a life.” In the original, there was indeed specific instruction against abortions, which the medical community has all but eschewed after Roe v. Wade (1973), and abortions became a sanctioned part of medical care. Here at Modern Life Survivalist, we do not believe in allowing institutional abortions, and we strongly support reform in this matter.

First Do No Harm

pills

Back to the original oath, I’d like to emphasize the first two phrases of the section I’ve bolded—”never with a view of injury or wrongdoing” and “neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course.” This is the most hypocritical piece of the oath in light of the present state of medical care. More people die from prescription drugs now than motor vehicle accidents. This certainly doesn’t fit the standards of their Greek forbear.

From my own experience, I can attest to the strong likelihood of modern medicine’s poisoning patients. For me, it resulted most recently from complications with proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Nexium and Prilosec a few years ago. My experience opened my eyes to the dangers of physician-prescribed pill-popping. The possible complications from taking acid reducers are even mentioned in the commercials advertising them. Though effective for many people in the short-term, for more susceptible individuals (like myself), they can almost immediately have the following effects:

  • Increased risk of low magnesium levels and bone fractures
  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Long-term potential of osteoporosis

One of the lesser-known effects of PPIs is disrupted gut bacteria, which would honestly explain all of the side effects enumerated above. It is interesting to note that PPIs disrupt the gut, yet are usually being prescribed to treat digestive disorders like acid reflux, gastritis, or ulcers (disorders of the gut). Talk about counterproductive!

Gut bacteria affects your health holistically, and indeed, according to Hippocrates’ writings are essentially the gateway to health:

[tweetthis]”All disease begins in the gut.” -Hippocrates[/tweetthis]

I have also been affected by the rampant problem of overprescribed antibiotics and vaccines (according to my infant health charts, which show that I had high fevers in reaction to instances of their respective administration). I believe these complications were most likely from the effects they had on my gut.

What we’ve come to expect from modern medicine throughout our life is a mechanistic, drug-heavy, unnatural, and incredibly invasive approach. From the womb, in the OB office where our mothers get prodded and poked with needles and sonograms; to the ICU room, where we watch our life drip away as we’re hooked up to IVs and bleeping death machines. Our early lives are padded with numerous frivolous doctor’s appointments and rounds of shots, some of which they admit are meant to condition parents into bringing their children in for regular check-ups.

We’re lucky if we find a respite from the sickening fluorescent glow of the doctor’s office/operating room in the prime of our lives, from our teen years to our late ’30s. But even then, you’re expected to get your regular check-ups, your flu shots, antibiotics when you have a little cough, etc. Heck, even generally “invincible” college students are subject to vaccines for meningitis, which are dangerous and ineffective anyway.

“Let Food Be They Medicine, Thy Medicine Shall Be Food”

Let food be thy medicine

This is the most heinously underrepresented saying from Hipprocrates’ teachings in a medical establishment that literally swears by him. Doctors are notoriously undereducated in nutrition. Sure, they’ll tell you to eat your whole grains for fiber, and always avoid that cholesterol and saturated animal fat in order to dodge the high cholesterol plague we all face. Oh wait—that’s to my point. Yes, these specific bits of advice are arguably the most detrimental to our health in the past half-century. Incredibly SAD indeed.

Has your doctor ever told you to eat organic vegetables and meat and fats from pastured animals? To avoid GMOs? To avoid high-sugar intake? So what I’m basically saying is, even if your doctor is trying and making the standard nutritional recommendations you’ll get from your standard American doctor (SAD once again), they’ll be doing more harm than good.

First do no harm. First do no harm. First do no harm. First do no harm. First do no harm. First do no…

This is the first and most important concept of the Hippocratic oath, yet it is being ignored by the majority of physicians, as exemplified in their behavior in the trifecta of prescription drugs, nutritional advice, and surgery.

Surgery

From the original oath and the snippets of Hippocrates’ writings I’ve seen excerpted, his general message seems to be consistent with as little intervention as possible. He pretty clearly lays out a healthy life of good food, time spent outdoors, and healthy activity. This is evident even in the revised oath, where they’ve emphasized that “prevention is preferable to cure.”

This is simply not a consideration apparently when it comes to surgery for modern doctors. Some have estimated that 60% of surgeries are unnecessary. This is completely frivolous, considering the countless risks and complications that come with even the most common surgeries. Perhaps it’s because hospitals profit both from the surgery and their mistakes.

Doctors Recommend Inflammatory Cardio

As an added bonus, in the activity department, doctors have uniformly recommended for the past half-century the most inflammatory, harmful activity ever to be considered “exercise”—steady-state cardio. Here at Modern Life Survivalist, from our experience and research, we have found this to be the least ideal and most inefficient way to exercise. I personally believe it to be most likely a psy-op designed to break your will as a human. But at the very least, it’s a huge waste of time. Yes, even if I were to concede to someone that it’s a neutral activity, I’d have to provide the caveat that you can accomplish so much more in about a quarter of the time by doing interval training or HIIT.

This is an excellent article describing the advantage of HIIT over cardio. It’s not very popular, even on the edgiest fitness websites to say it, but my wife and I believe you shouldn’t even mess with steady-state cardio, unless you feel like dancing or get an urge to go for a little joggy thing on your daily walk. You know, just to feel the wind on your face without all-out sprinting. But then again… why not just go for it and sprint? It’ll make you feel awesome as long as your form is good and you tense your abdomen, I guarantee it. Your mitochondria will thank you.

I don’t know, I kind of think people don’t like to sprint randomly, because they’re afraid people will feel threatened or think they’re crazy. Mercola even said that he used to jog when it was unpopular (and didn’t know sprinting was better), and people used to throw shoes at him thinking he was a thief getting away from the crime scene. It just makes people uncomfortable to see a human running at full speed. Jogging is inherently more polite I guess. But I digress.

Fire Your Doctor—Hire A Doctor for Your Gut

natural-weight-loss

So if when you are unfortunate enough to have to go in for your regular check-up/sick visit with a doctor who has committed any of these sins against the Father of Modern Medicine, you might want to consider saying something to the effect of:

Check yourself, doc. Get back to your mission, and learn everything you can about the gut before you prescribe a single drug or surgery again. There’s a lot of information on the cutting edge of microbiology and gastroenterology that you’re ignoring. By the way, you’re fired.

Then, if at all possible, try to find an affordable:

  • functional doctor
  • osteopathic doctor (OD)
  • naturopath
  • nutritionist
  • chiropractor (though I’m not a fan of the spinal adjustments)

to partner with in your healthcare. From my experience and research, these are much better options than a traditional family doctor. Conventional medicine is quite useful, however, for advanced infections, broken legs, major dental concerns, emergencies, and complications of childbirth. So don’t eliminate them altogether. They just have a long way to go as far as the Hippocratic approach prescribes for preventive care and your general ongoing health needs.

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Image sources: Hippocratic oath scan (J-PCS.org) –

About Rob 69 Articles
Rob was the valedictorian of his high school (his last claim to fame), but now believes that academics are overrated. He is a musician and former copy editor, and is now studying independently as an amateur nutritionist, businessman, and writer/rocker against world government and for liberty. He is also attempting to obtain a PhD in squats, deadlifts, shoulder raises, rows, bench press, dips, and pull-ups.

4 Comments

  1. This is a great article. Much good information and perspective. As a chiropractor, I’ve been studying and teaching this information for many years and will now share this resource with my patients. In terms of spinal adjustments, when necessary, they are irreplaceable to restore health. Nerve stress and nerve pressure from vertebral misplacement is a very common cause for back and health issues. Spinal alignment corrected a sinus issue I had for many years. The key is achieving a proper adjustment, in the right place, at the right time, in the right direction, with the right amount of pressure. That can be a challenge and I recommend Palmer Doctors for this, although Doctors of chiropractic from other schools can achieve this as well.

    • Thank you, Dr. Hogan. We’re not big fans of chiropractic here at MLS, but we love that they are so interested in naturopathic and nutritionist interventions that involve the gut. We’ve seen a lot of good coming out of your field.

  2. Hello, I am neither for nor against your position but I myself do not regularly go to doctors and I never get vaccines but I must admit it is not really that I do not believe in them I just feel as though sickness comes and goes and it’s just apart of life. The only thing I might say against your firm position is that many things have changed in thousands of years. People live much differently now than they did back then. There are different ills now and more meds and cures and much more advanced practises now. Minds have evolved to a point where abortion makes more sense today in some cases. Thousands of years ago when maybe only 1 child would survive out of 4 or 5 children, abortion might have destroyed the human race but now there may be too many mouths to feed and also nowadays incest is frowned upon whereas thousands of years ago keeping blood pure was a good thing in many cultures. I do however believe that much of modern medicine has lost its way but this is also why we have so many options for everyone to take advantage of whether it be a primary care doctor or a nutritionist or whatever you choose to prescribe to. I would however like to thank you for this article and for the correct Hippocratic oath. It was very interesting.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts! Well I’m definitely staunchly pro-Life, and I don’t think it’s natural, healthy, or moral to terminate a pregnancy for the majority of reasons that are given. Perhaps in the case of rape, and ironically considering your comments, incest.

    There are most certainly not too many mouths to feed these days. That is an illusion I believe. Even John Lennon said that was propaganda, and Dick Cavett was like “I disagree with you there.” These people want you to fell you’re taking up space and there isn’t enough to go around. This is easy to do, because we are all crowded around population centers, like cities, which themselves have ample space to grow produce and raise animals in order to feed the people within them. It’s all about your outlook, and it’s not very hard to see a world where there is plenty of healthy, non-GMO food that would feed us all. Think about how much milk a cow produces. If everyone kept a cow, they could get most of the caloric needs for their family just from the butter they can make.

    Glad you liked the article, though. Also glad you don’t go to the doctor if you can help it, and don’t utilize vaccines. Great intuition!

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