The Hippocratic Oath | Sunday Observer

The Hippocratic Oath

8 November, 2020

In this article I will discuss the duties of a doctor. In Sri Lanka we relate to the Hippocratic Oath. The Hippocratic Oath is an oath of ethics historically taken by physicians. It is one of the most widely known of Greek medical texts. In its original form, it requires a new physician to swear, by a number of healing gods, to uphold specific ethical standards. In England we have moved beyond this and the General Medical Council (GMC) of UK has laid down some guidelines, ‘good medical practice’ guidelines helping doctors on how to be a good doctor. As doctors we enjoy privileges throughout the world. As a result we are expected to be role models in society.

In England if a doctor is found drunk driving he or she will be reported to the GMC by the police. The GMC will investigate the matter and appropriate action will be taken. There was an incident recently in Sri Lanka where a lady consultant was allegedly drunk driving and caused a fatal accident.

Doctors are requested to report speeding fines to the GMC in England.

Doctors are not expected to prescribe for your relatives and friends unless it’s an emergency.

Patients must be able to trust doctors with their lives and health. To justify that trust you must show respect for human life and make sure your practice meets the standards expected of you in four main categories. They are as follows:

1. Knowledge skills and performance that a doctor should have

A) Make the care of your patient your first concern.

Recent incident re a letter between a senior professor and the LRH hospital was a good example. I am not going to elaborate on this as the child is well and the matter has ended.

B) Provide a good standard of practice and care.

Time keeping, professionalism are key points.

C) Keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date.

Maintaining knowledge and skills on a continuous basis is expected of a doctor.

D) Recognise and work within the limits of your competence.

Doctors should limit their practice to their field and speciality.

One important thing is to work within the boundaries of your speciality.

2. Safety and quality

A) Take prompt action if you think that patient safety, dignity or comfort is being compromised.

B) Be candid.

C) Protect and promote the health of patients and the public.

3. Community partnership and teamwork

A) Treat patients as individuals and respect their dignity.

B) Treat patients politely and considerately.

C) Respect patients’ right to confidentiality.

D) Work in partnership with patients.

E) Listen to, and respond to, their concerns and preferences.

F) Give patients the information they want or need in a way they can understand.

G) Respect patients’ right to reach decisions with you about their treatment and care.

H) Support patients in caring for themselves to improve and maintain their health.

I) Work with colleagues in the ways that best serve patients’ interests.

4. Maintain trust

A) Be honest, open and act with integrity.

B) Never discriminate unfairly against patients or colleagues according to their race,colour,religion and sexuality.

In this category we have seen a Sri Lankan doctor/professor being critical publicly against a doctor from an ethnic minority without any concrete evidence, i.e. the Kurunegala incident re the pregnant mothers. This is misconduct.

C) Don’t abuse your patients’ trust in you or the public’s trust in the profession.

D)You are personally accountable for your professional practice and must always be prepared to justify your decisions and actions.

Dr Namal Senasinghe has practised as a doctor for 25 years in England in the capacity of a junior doctor, registrar, senior registrar and as a consultant in pain medicine (for 18 years).

He has set up the ‘London Pain Management Centre’ at No 31 Horton Place, Colombo 7 on September 2, 2020 which was opened by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

(To be continued next week)