Hippocrates has left the building

(This post first appeared on Leaven for the Loaf April 25, 2013.)

A bit of an online war has erupted among people I consider Pro-Life Friendlies in Texas over a pending bill there. Details of the bill don’t concern me here. Medical ethics are involved, however, and that brings up something that drives me nuts: references to the Hippocratic Oath. As in, doctors take the Oath and therefore shouldn’t be involved in euthanasia or abortion.

Of course they shouldn’t. The Hippocratic Oath isn’t the reason, though. Many medical schools no longer use that oath, and I must believe that one reason is that this line just doesn’t square with medical politics: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.”

How positively pre-1973.

Fear not, however. The American Medical Association is on the case. From the AMA’s Principles of Medical Ethics [note, 10/29/16: this link is no longer active]: “The Principles of Medical Ethics of the AMA do not prohibit a physician from performing an abortion in accordance with good medical practice and under circumstances that do not violate the law.”

That doesn’t even address ethics for nurses, medical assistants, and other people (some of whom do not have medical training; see Abby Johnson’s Unplanned) who assist with abortions. For doctors, Hippocrates is in the rearview mirror. For other abortion practitioners, he was never in sight.

Challenging abortion practitioners on the basis of that Oath assumes a context that simply doesn’t exist. There are stronger, more persuasive arguments to be made, starting with biology and embryology.