I’ve been thinking a lot about doctors. No, not because I’m married to one, or because it seems that my social calendar is turning into a series of appointments with them. I’ve been thinking about the oath that graduating medical students take. Some schools have their graduates recite the Hippocratic Oath, others the Oath of Maimonides.
Hippocrates’ pledge reads in part, “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.”
The Oath of Maimonides follows a similar theme. Here is just a sample of what newly minted doctors recite: “Inspire me with love for my art and for Thy creatures. Do not allow thirst for profit, ambition for renown and admiration, to interfere with my profession, for these are the enemies of truth and of love for mankind and they can lead astray in the great task of attending to the welfare of Thy creatures … Almighty God! Thou hast chosen me in Thy mercy to watch over the life and death of Thy creatures. I now apply myself to my profession. Support me in this great task so that it may benefit mankind, for without Thy help not even the least thing will succeed.”
Over the past few months, as the world stands by and watches as Syria is torn apart by civil war, one particular thing has been bothering me, and I haven’t seen anybody else address it. To wit: Do Syrian medical school graduates take an oath to subscribe to a set of ethical precepts? If so, which one do they recite?
I ask this because Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad is a physician. He graduated from the Damascus University School of Medicine. On the day he stepped across the stage to accept his diploma, did he take an oath promising to uphold the moral code of the healing profession?
I am fascinated by the fact that Assad did post-graduate training at London’s Western Eye Hospital, specializing in ophthalmology. An interesting choice, ophthalmology, the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye. Through what lens does Bashar Al-Assad view the world? Does his vision focus only on his own power? Can he not see that the choices he has made have taken life and limb from hundreds of thousands of his own people, and caused over two million others to flee the only home they have ever known?
Does Bashar Al-Assad need his vision checked?
Is this man still licensed to practice medicine?
Would you trust him with your health?