Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hippocratic Oath and a Lot of Hypocrisy

Glasgow airportThere has been some debate in the media about the fact that many of the suspects involved in the car bombs in London and Glasgow last week were physicians, in particular with regard to the Hippocratic Oath. But does such an oath really matter for terrorists? And what's the Hippocratic Oath worth anyway, especially in the West?

Let's start with the terrorists: why wouldn't they plan or carry out a car bomb attack in Great-Britain, or Iraq for that matter, just because they're physicians who have taken the Hippocratic Oath? I'm a civil engineer, and I never got the impression at university that it would be OK for me to harm people as part of my job, on the contrary. Furthermore, the Hippocratic Oath never stopped the development of biological or chemical arms, even though I'm sure there were (and probably still are) a lot of medical doctors involved in that. Not to mention Josef Mengele, who, I'm sure, took the Hippocratic Oath too, just as well as Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda's No. 2, George Habash of the PLO and Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Hamas strongman in Gaza, as Thomas Wagner from Associated Press points out.

The fact that so many people are puzzled by the fact that many of the suspects were physicians who had sworn not to harm any people says more about the people who are puzzled than the suspects. It seems that some people just haven't got it yet, even after both 11 September 2001 in New York, 11 March 2004 in Madrid and 7 July 2005 in London. There's a war going on, and contrary to what some people in the media want us believe, it wasn't the West that started it. In fact, being a physician is just an easy ticket in if you want to enter the United Kingdom, and the following quote from The Sun sums it up quite well:
It was a perfect cover. Who could possibly suspect a doctor of wanting to inflict death and injury on innocent people?
My guess: the Israeli's could,and probably would too. Actually, it's a lesson they learned years ago, and maybe we should rather start learning from them instead of blaming them for almost everything that's going wrong in the Middle East.

Finally, about that Hippocratic Oath: how much is it still worth in the Western world anyway? The classical version explicitly bans both euthanasia and abortion, but references to it aren't even accepted any more as arguments in a «modern» debate about those two issues. In fact, in Belgium physicians are still allowed to refuse to perform abortion or euthanasia on moral grounds. That is, at least for the time being, because the previous, liberal government didn't really give the impression it appreciated those difficult physicians very much. And Marc Cosyns, the doctor who announced last week he was planning to perform euthanasia in an illegal way as to renew to debate, wasn't confronted with his Hippocratic Oath at all. If that's not in conflict with the Hippocratic Oath, why would killing infidels be?

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