Hands up everyone who knows what the Hippocratic Oath is. My bet is that most of you have at least a vague idea it has something to do with a code of conduct for doctors. That it implies they will put the good of the patient before all other considerations is probably the most widely understood meaning of the oath.
It was written down by Hippocrates, or maybe one of his students, in the 4th century B.C. and, aside from the prayer to Apollo that opens the oath and some modernizations to accommodate our changed world, it’s still a pretty darn good set of guidelines: I won't give my patients medicines that will harm them; I won't do any procedure that I'm not capable of; and I will never do harm to anyone. These are all things we'd like to think our own doctor would adhere to.
Of course, you have to wonder these days the way some doctors run their practices if they’ve ever heard of that Oath or any one of the modern variations that they now have doctors recite — especially the part about medicines that will cause people harm. How many class action lawsuits are going on right now because of prescription drugs that caused severe complications for patients?
Sure, some of them are the fault of the pharmaceutical companies and the regulating agencies rushing some wonder drug onto the market without giving it proper testing. But there are also the instances, far more common than you'd think, of doctors not bothering to check a patient’s medical history to find out if they have high blood pressure and if the medication they've just prescribed isn't supposed to be taken under those circumstances.
Then there are the doctors who look at their patients in terms of how much money they’re worth and how much work they involve. The ideal patient for this type of doctor is the one who won’t take up much of their time, but needs to see them on a regular basis so billable hours can be increased.
There have been cases reported in Canada where doctors are refusing to take on clients who are elderly or who will require extensive amounts of treatment, while not allowing the doctor to charge extra billable hours — so much for treating anyone in need.