The Hippocratic Oath and the death of national conscience

Gibson Nyikadzino Correspondent
THE idea to raise national conscience and teaching citizens to do the right thing in their respective professions remains ideal when any nation ever thinks of a willingness to prosper.

Ideally, when people know where they are coming from and share a consensus on what they look forward to, it becomes easy to share that belief. Zimbabweans are going through a difficult time.

The health sector, a key component that determines the survival of a people who should serve the country, is being neglected by those who pledged to serve and protect patients after assuming the Hippocratic Oath.

After pledging allegiance to the oath, Zimbabwe’s doctors have been on strike for over a month now, and the prudence that when issues need clarity the courts intervene was shown when the Labour Court ruled that the strike was unlawful.

Doctors have made demands, most of which the government has met, but they refuse to go back to their work stations.

The oath, over 2 500 years old, is the oldest binding document in medicinal history. Written by Hippocrates of Kos, the document is still held sacrosanct by physicians to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability, to preserve a patient’s privacy, to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation among other things.

Government is not tampering with the oath, nor arm-twisting doctors to follow its lead. By its own admission, the Presidium has been clear that it has many priorities but will not neglect the health sector nor will it give it little attention because of its strategic importance to the State.

Doctors forget that “you make peace with people you disagree with”.

To meet its commitment, Government has availed instruments that have been unavailable on the medical market with the hope that it will ease pressure on the doctors who groaned about their working conditions for the benefit of the sick.

A little over a month now, many lives have been lost, including a significant number of those in their prime who, if they had been attended to, would have contributed to the development of the nation.

The negligence and turn of a blind-eye on the health sector by Zimbabwe’s medical staff should be addressed and if left unchecked, lives will be lost. Soviet Russia’s Joseph Stalin has been recorded by history as a cruel leader, but his concern for life was immense when he said: “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

The tragedy of losing manpower in the modern global statecraft because some professionals who undertook an oath no longer intend to uphold that oath makes the country a laughing stock.

Imagine if Zimbabwe had a compulsory year’s military service for its citizens? Critics have gone out of their way to attack the idea as political yet it is a national cause.

Military service is compulsory in most countries of the world. In some European countries all citizens are required to spend two years full-time because the idea is to practically educate the young on the social, political and economic discipline they should carry in their various professions.

Zimbabwe should be able to effect compulsory service either in the armed forces or in civil defence so that people know that Zimbabwe is first before self and before differences in political beliefs.

If doctors and all professionals go through compulsory service for civil defence purposes, there would be no problems the country is currently countenancing. In this era, it could be an act of foolishness to think that compulsory service is a relic of the past.

The medical professionals should learn to treat to treat patients with respect and affection, and not to create distance, should have a sense of patriotism, of what it means to feel a sense of duty to help your people, and work to change the situation, no matter the conditions.

Doctors educated in the appreciation of the Hippocratic Oath with a patriotic sense to serve and save will go even to the remotest of the areas to find the sick, administer proper service, something the community appreciates.

Commenting on importation of doctors from Cuba last year, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni had this to say: “I wanted to bring Cuban doctors because ours behaved very badly and unprofessionally. They started striking, incited other doctors and left our patients to die. They were blackmailing us.”

Though many might want to consider it an absurd approach to reality, in hindsight, the physician’s Hippocratic Oath and many other professions should not be read alone.

To know the prosperity we intend to share as a nation, all budding professionals should go through a national consciousness drive established in the compulsory service.

Government has done it before, and now it should raise the thought once again with a broad and inclusive mind that rescues future generations from self-infliction and destruction.

source: the herald

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