To the editor: The purpose of the Hippocratic Oath today is to remind our newly minted physicians that they are entering a unique profession, one that expects they will put patients' interests above all else. They have the privilege of knowing a person most intimately physically and mentally, and that relationship is to be inviolate. ("The Hippocratic oath and the terminally ill," Op-Ed, Dec. 26)
A dying person is at his or her most vulnerable, and the physician's role is to treat the pain with suitable medication and to alleviate the suffering via the psychological and spiritual means appropriate for that patient. Killing a patient does not prepare him or her for eternity.
The Decalogue predates the Hippocratic Oath, and its author supersedes Hippocrates. "Thou shalt not kill" is not a recommendation but a rule for human conduct.
Gregory E. Polito, MD, Whittier
It is true the Hippocratic Oath is old, but that hardly makes it obsolete. The 10 Commandments are also old, but we see no reason why they should also be discarded, especially the admonition "Thou shall not kill." Human nature is old, yet it has not fundamentally changed over the centuries.
Op-Ed article authors Nora Zamichow and Ken Murray argue that the time has come to permit doctors to shorten the lives of the terminally ill. Such an approach opens the door to a quagmire of abuse in which the "right to die with dignity" becomes "the right to be killed" when one is most vulnerable.
Heart-rending cases of suffering can be eliminated by improving the medical establishment's understanding of the needs of those requiring end-of-life care. Hospice care and improved education of doctors in the needs of the dying are far better answers than turning doctors effectively into executioners.
Bill Niemeyer, Long Beach
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