In 1964, Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, modernized the Hippocratic Oath and his revision is used in many medical schools today. The phrase "first do no harm" has arisen from the oath as it evolved over time. In the modern version, the oath states "I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure. 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. If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help." These strong and beautiful words underscore the very reasons many undergraduate students feel compelled choose to a career medicine. Nowadays, the idea that a study in medicine is a study in prevention couldn't be more true. Doctors and nurses are increasingly engaging in issues that were once limited to environmentalists, such as the need for clean water, clean air and a stable climate. In fact, according to Climate for Health partner Physicians for Social Responsibility in the Sojourners Magazine article below, 50,000 deaths a year are caused by coal-fired power plants. Similarly, the Environmental Working Group's new report “Rethinking Carcinogens,” conducted by the Halifax Project, a collaboration of more than 300 scientists, indicates that 50 percent of all cancers come from environmental sources. These high number of preventative diseases are morally unacceptable. Perhaps this is why Pope Francis is calling upon people to recognize human contributions toward environmental degradation and act for the common good. It's no surprise that the Hippocratic Oath also aims to call upon our moral intuition for the purpose of preventing disease. We are all one people, with one moral imperative.
By Tony Campolo I August 11, 2015
Someone has said that Pope Francis is really a Protestant. He is, if Protestant is defined as someone who protests. His recent encyclical Laudato si' is a protest against the often irresponsible industries as they pollute the environment.
Pope Francis especially protests the ways in which coal is burned in the production of electricity. He is right to protest. What comes out of the smoke stacks of coal-fed electric power plants is linked to 50,000 deaths a year, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility. Because children and the elderly among the poor are the most vulnerable, the pope, following his namesake, St. Francis, has a special concern for those that Jesus calls "the least of these."
This encyclical is not just a plea for curtailing the pollution of God's planet; the pope is also calling for a change in our cultural values. In this encyclical, he protests the heightened individualism of our modern world that is concerned only with personal comfort and pleasure and, instead, he calls for an ethic that highlights a commitment to "the common good." For Red Letter Christians that means that we must ask ourselves, before we do things that affect the environment, what Jesus would do if Jesus was in our place. There is no doubt that all that Jesus did and calls us to do put the welfare of others above materialistic self-interest.
Stay connected and get updates from Climate for Health.Subscribe