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Poems and Thoughts    by Frank Maurer

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The Veterinarian's 'Hippocratic Oath'.

I had a brother-in-law who, urged by his mother, became a veterinarian.
The rest of his sibs, as well as his father and mother
Were in the human medical field.
After a time, he concluded that because he was able
To decide which animal would live or die,
He was personally obliged to forsake animal medicine and shift to humans.

I pondered this decision for many years and decided to investigate
The so-called Hippocratic Oath vs the Veterinarian's Oath.
Such a profound difference, dealing with a dog or cat or cow vs a human!
I invite you to research the two oaths,
But I would like to point out some variations of each.

For vets: 'I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills
For the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, etc'.
'I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping
With the principles of veterinary medical ethics.' Etc.
Veterinarians fulfill different roles: dealing with pets, dealing with herds for food,
And dealing with animals that are part of terminal scientific research.
The responsibility to prevent and relieve suffering
Can look significantly different in these varying situations.
Did you know there was a variation of the USA oath used in Canada?

So now for the Hippocratic Oath, the original of which has been modernized.
There have been many modernizations--including a change for 'I will not use the knife...'
No surgery in the early period around AD 275 !
Did Hippocrates actually write that first document? Several scholars question that.
Many variations obtained and several 'original' authors have been cited.
In Nazi Germany, medical students did not take the oath,
Although they knew the ethic of 'nil nocere'--do no harm.
In the 1960's the Hippocratic Oath was changed to require
'Utmost respect for human life from the beginning', making it more secular,
Not in the presence of any gods, but before only other people.
'I will remember that I remain a member of society,
With special obligations to all my fellow human beings,
Those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.'

For veterinarians, their oath is to take care of animals,
But the serious 'human obligation' is obviously missing.
The many variations of the Hippocratic Oath dealing with humans,
Necessarily, are 'our-species-focused obligations and duties'.

I guess, as my brother-in-law did many years ago,
One has to consider the absolute obligations towards creature-animal vs human-animal.
How 'pure' is the decision that one must make towards the life of another?

Frank Maurer 16 August 2023 1730 Hours.

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