Reflection on the Hippocratic Oath on National Doctors’ Day

By Angie Thomas J.D., Associate Director

Today, March 30th, is National Doctors’ Day! 

Dr. Chasuk and Dr. Nobles with Representative Amedee and our Associate Director Angie Thomas.

There is certainly no doubt that doctors are important in our lives. Doctors are called to heal and help. We are so thankful that doctors have the knowledge and ability to help us in our time of need.

Yet, as I work on pro-life issues day in and day out, I reflect on the role of doctors as it relates to the attacks on human life we face in our day, namely abortion and physician-assisted suicide. These acts of violence are done at the hands of doctors. How is it that doctors, who are trained to heal and help, are able to justify the intentional killing of another?

I can’t help but think about the phrases in the different versions of the Hippocratic Oath. I’ve read that earlier versions of the oath contained statements like: 

  • “First, do no harm”
  • “I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm.”

The classical version of the Hippocratic Oath contained this statement:

  • “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.”

Today, the most widely-used modern version contains a less specific but still powerful statement:

  • “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.”

These issues have become so divisive and emotional. Yet, when one reads these statements, it becomes clear that doctors are meant to heal, not harm.

We pray for all medical professionals to answer their calling to heal, especially those who have gone down the path of providing abortions and physician-assisted suicide. 

And we thank those amazing doctors who respect life. There are so many doctors who truly help women when they are facing an unplanned pregnancy. These doctors offer life-affirming alternatives to abortion and encourage women to seek out the many resources that are there to help. 

Many doctors who have been called upon to help patients at the end of their lives, do so with such courage and tenderness. We thank you for not enabling patients to take their own lives. We thank you for being willing to help them see the beauty in patiently enduring.

You, dear pro-life doctors, carry us through those difficult life moments. If a woman chooses life, she counts on you to help her bring that life into the world. If an elderly person chooses to allow a terminal illness to take its course, he counts on you to help him in treatment and even in pain management.

At Louisiana Right to Life, we applaud all doctors who stand by their oath of doing no harm. We are so grateful for doctors who uphold the sanctity of life.