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Hippocratic Oath

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611244.  Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:03 am Reply with quote

The Hippocratic Oath would be a good subject for an H series as it is of so much importance in all our lives (or is it?).
Here's a link
I only discovered recently that the original, and correct, symbol of medicine only has one snake entwined round the staff, and was associated with Aesclepius, the God of Healing. Nowadays, the symbol is very often shown with 2 snakes, which is the symbol associated with Caduceus. The British Medical Association's emblem is the Staff of Aesclepius.

611261.  Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:21 am Reply with quote

Actually, I think that "caduceus" is the name of the double snaked rod symbol itself; the deities with which it was associated were Iris and Hermes.

611308.  Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:49 am Reply with quote

Whoops - yes

Ion Zone
611524.  Fri Sep 11, 2009 3:29 pm Reply with quote

Hermes is often sculpted on the backs of the heads of Pharaohs. The snake seen sculpted on the forehead is to protect the third eye.

611566.  Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:49 pm Reply with quote

Hugh Laurie apparently thought of this marketing campaign for House.
It's called "Snakes on a Cane".

611727.  Sat Sep 12, 2009 7:16 am Reply with quote

That's interesting - that's the Caduceus rod rather than the rod of Asclepius. I wonder if the USA use the double-snaked one as their medical symbol.
Edit - the University of South Alabama uses the Caduceus rod but the American Medical Association uses the single snaked rod, as does the BMA.

612369.  Sun Sep 13, 2009 4:04 pm Reply with quote

Oddly enough, we tried to run this issue as a question back in the C Series of QI. It proved to be a total non-starter and wasn't broadcast, so it gives me special pleasure to find a use for Frederick the Monk's script note in this place.

We asked how you should respond to a vehicle with a caduceus turning up at the scene of your heart attack.

The symbol above is the CADUCEUS the magic wand of Hermes. Hermes was the protector of merchants and the conductor of the dead to the underworld. If he arrived in a car at the scene of your heart attack you would be rightly frightened as either a/. he's coming to take you to the underworld (although at least he's brought his own car), or b/. he's going to charge you a fortune before doing anything.

The problem arises as the caduceus is often confused with the Staff of Asclepius, a symbol of medicine and medical practitioners. In fact even the US Army medical corp was confused by this, adopting the Caduceus as their symbol in 1902. The website for the US Army Human Resources Command still states :

"Rooted in mythology, the caduceus, historically an emblem of physicians, symbolizes knowledge, wisdom, promptness and various aspects of medical skill."

Other medical organisations, particularly in the US, have also confused the images, although as Friedlander points out, as they are largely commercial organisations in themselves then perhaps using the wand of the protector of merchants isn't such a bad idea.

Why we thought this would have a snowball's chance of working as a question I can't now remember.

612371.  Sun Sep 13, 2009 4:06 pm Reply with quote

On the original topic of the Hippocratic Oath, I like that it prohibits surgery.

Ion Zone
612373.  Sun Sep 13, 2009 4:08 pm Reply with quote

Old things are often like that.

612377.  Sun Sep 13, 2009 4:21 pm Reply with quote

Like what? Rooted in their time?

629763.  Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:41 am Reply with quote

Ion Zone wrote:
Hermes is often sculpted on the backs of the heads of Pharaohs. The snake seen sculpted on the forehead is to protect the third eye.

Klaxon! Hermes is a Greek god, and the idea of the "third eye" comes from Asian philosophies. Neither has any place in native Egyptian mythology or symbolism.

Horus is sometimes shown in sculptures as a falcon standing behind the king, "embracing" the king's head with his wings. The king was considered to be essentially an incarnation of Horus on earth.

But usually the king is shown simply wearing one of the royal headdresses or crowns, each of which has a different connotation.

The cobra on the king's forehead -- actually a part of the headdress or crown -- is a solar goddess of fierce protection. There is also a connection with the cobra goddess named Uadjet or Edjo (or, in older books, Buto), the protective patron deity of the city of Buto and ultimately of Lower Egypt, and thus of the king ruling over Lower Egypt. (The corresponding patron of Upper Egypt is the vulture goddess Nekhebet. Together they are usually referred to as "the Two Ladies".)

After Egypt came under Greek rule, the Greeks and Romans eagerly embraced the interesting new deities and incorporated them into their existing religious systems. They conflated Thoth with Hermes, since both were gods of writing and knowledge. This composite god was adopted into medieval alchemy as Hermes Trismegistus ("thrice-great Hermes"), considered to be the fount of all alchemic wisdom.

Ion Zone
629767.  Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:59 am Reply with quote

Horus is sometimes shown in sculptures as a falcon standing behind the king, "embracing" the king's head with his wings. The king was considered to be essentially an incarnation of Horus on earth.

Sorry, I meant Horus, but yes. It's been a while.

Last edited by Ion Zone on Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:03 am; edited 1 time in total

629770.  Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:02 am Reply with quote

I will be chaste and religious in my life and in my practice.

Both of these seem to be hopelessly out-of-date now (I appreciate this is slightly ironic when discussing a quote from circa 400BC...), not many doctors I know are un-married, nevermind chaste, or particularly religious.

And, if doctors still have to abide by this oath, does that mean that they must teach their own and their tutors children for free?

I will hand on precepts, lectures and all other learning to my sons, to those of my master and to those pupils duly apprenticed and sworn, and to none other.

Ion Zone
629771.  Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:05 am Reply with quote

My doctor is, I think we need an updated Hippocratic oath though, something like "I solemnly swear to help the people and do no wrongful harm."

629782.  Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:24 am Reply with quote

Sounds a little 'Scout's Honour', but I see what you mean!

I think its slightly bizarre that doctors still agree to abide by a set of precepts laid down in a 2400 year old oath.

I mean, could you imagine living your life by a set of rules from over 2000 years ago, handed down by some beardy guy?



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