Feb. 28, 2005, 1:07 p.m.

Primum Non Nocere

First, do no harm. As doctors, this is our first duty to patients given to our care. We should do everything necessary to sustain life, and refrain from doing actions curtailing it. Such is a straightforward way of putting it. Medicine as a discipline is thus a very noble profession, and such duty is the reason why physician candidates spend about 9 years in school, and more if subspecialties are sought. We have to support and maintain life from the moment of conception to natural death. But is this always the case?

One very direct way of harming is abortion. They say it's the mother's choice, but can anyone really have the choice of killing the innocent? This is where the crux lies. What about the unborn fetuses or embryos, who'll protect them? Surely they have the very basic human right to life. They have the right to be born, and then to live a very fruitful life on Earth, like any other adult. People may be surprised that the abortion prohibition is in the Hippocratic oath! People, wake-up! Mark my word: abortion is murder. So much to talk about this in later blogs, but it may be appropriate to leave this bible passage...

"Can a woman forget her nursing-child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;... (Isaiah 49.15f NRSV)"

On another topic... Especially in the Philippines (and other third-world countries), the choice of medicines to prescribe should be done diligently. Because people are generally indigent, choose the best and the cheapest. Some doctors have the notion that the cheap medicines (e.g., antibiotics) are ineffective. A little effort is necessary to research this silver bullet--optimized drug effectivity and price. In line with this, drug companies have the duty to provide very affordable medicines for the general public. The government also should help here.

One thing the government did was to continually import cheap medicines from India (up to several-fold cheaper). [Personally I don't know if their quality is assured; this should be ascertained by the appropriate agencies.] Caution should also be exercised because the price should not compromise the drug's effectiveness. This is confounded by the proliferation of fake medicines especially in the countryside. These unscrupulous people who sell these fake drugs are really worse than the purveyors of prohibited drugs.

Physicians or not, all of us have to choose life!