Email Ken Stallings   The Hippocratic Oath

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"The Hippocratic Oath -- I swear by Apollo, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath."

Inherent in this beginning to the classic medical oath are the Greek origins of these venerable words.  These are words from antiquity.  They have survived the test of eons to remain cherished because of the nobility they convey.

"To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone."

How can someone who takes this oath then believe it right to parse people for life or death according to a religious litmus test?  How can they believe these words have any relevance amid a mindset that says it is right and necessary to murder people because they don't share the same religious values?  It seems a most incongruous combination.

"To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death."

One presumes also not to please Allah (or any God) and certainly not to please any man, or group of men, would a doctor endeavor to kill people with airliners and place bombs upon subway trains!  On what basis then can we presume Ayman al Zawahiri, a former Egyptian medical doctor, reconciles his second-in-command position with Al Qaeda?

"In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves."

We have now four medical doctors, classically trained, who moved from nations such as Pakistan and Iraq to Great Britain, who organized themselves into a terrorist cell to fill two Mercedes sedans with gas cylinders and packages of nails.  These car bombs were placed in London's Piccadilly Square, and were intended to murder hundreds of innocent civilians.

Further, they conspired to ram a gas cylinder bearing SUV into the front lobby of Glasgow, Scotland's international airport.  The lobby was filled with thousands of innocent civilian travelers. 

These doctors were invited to Great Britain to be practicing medical physicians -- to heal the sick, and care for the suffering. 

"If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot."

Indeed, the respect we accord to the members of the medical profession are entirely the result of their altruistic professional goals.  They heal the sick, care for the suffering, and seek to promulgate life.  More noble a profession one cannot find.  Doctors earn our respect, our trust, and our confidence.  When they err, we presume it was an error in context of human imperfection.  Doctors, we believe, may strive for perfection, but we cannot fairly hold them solely to that level.

But what we have seen with these many doctors is something wholly different.  Having taken this classic and venerable oath, perhaps the most revered professional obligation known to mankind, these doctors morphed to become terrorists. 

True, individual doctors have become criminal.  But, it is rare indeed to see a group of doctors from various nations and backgrounds unite to warp their professional duties into those of merchants of death, misery, murder and mayhem.  They used their respected credentials to enter nations with the hidden intent of carrying out acts of wholesale slaughter.

It was well planned, because months prior a British Anglican priest, Canon Andrew White, heard these sinister words from an Al Qaeda leader he met in Amman, Jordan:

"Those who cure you are going to kill you!" 

Canon White was in Jordan to help negotiate an end to sectarian violence in Iraq.  He was meeting with various Iraqi tribal and religious leaders.  However, he also met with this Al Qaeda terrorist.  The priest reported the meeting to British and American security forces, but left out the statement because he naturally presumed these were the insane words of a terrorist.  White said of this man, "It was like meeting the devil!"

As soon as British police announced the arrests of four doctors, White remembered the sinister threat.  He informed British security forces of this as well.  One can forgive the priest for his temporary lapse of memory.  It is hard to condition oneself to the belief that doctors can so readily abandon healing for murder!

To the many millions of honorable doctors across the world, these events must strike a particularly painful chord.  Five among them have betrayed their most sacred professional oaths.

What are we to think of a religion that can so condition men to abandon noble principles of humanity and healing, and trade them for murder?  It would be easy to dismiss these five doctors as radical exceptions.  Indeed, they are thankfully very, very rare.  But they also represent something we cannot ignore.

We live in an era of religious extremism.  In mosques all over the world hateful words are being delivered to millions of people, some of whom take them to heart.  These doctors are like many radicals.  They live within a cherished freedom of association and speech.  And yet, they use these sacred freedoms to hide a nefarious intent to destroy these freedoms along with all other western democratic values.

We want to love people and live in peace.  Only fools desire anything else.  It appears sad that we have many such fools in our midst.  More troubling is that as these terrorists emerge from the shadows and strike, they do more than just murder innocent people.  They also threaten our notions of trust and virtue.

-- Ken Stallings

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