Hippocrates

Hippocrates

Also known as Hippocrates II, was a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles (Classical Greece), and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is referred to as the “Father of Western Medicine” in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field as the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine. This intellectual school revolutionized medicine in ancient Greece, establishing it as a discipline distinct from other fields with which it had traditionally been associated (theurgy and philosophy), thus establishing medicine as a profession.

Born into a family that belonged to the cult of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, Hippocrates learned priestly medicine and anatomy from his father, Heraclid. He left his native city and roamed the lands of ancient Greece, throughout Thrace, Thessaly and Macedonia as an itinerant physician, gaining a solid reputation in time, as a practitioner. Around 420 BC, he returned to Kos, where he founded a school for the future doctors. Later, he would establish another school in Thessaly, where he will die by the year 370 BC in the city of Larissa.

In his work on epilepsy, called “Sacred Disease” (Morbus sacer), we encounter information on the anatomy of the human body and it is believed that epilepsy could be caused by a lack of air due to the failure of the veins to carry air to the brain. Despite his arguments being considered naive nowadays, the important fact is that this disease is seen by Hippocrates as a commotion of the brain’s function. In the development stage of his knowledge, Hippocrates could not be sheltered by inherent errors of the era in which he lived. Thus, in his view, what today we would call a “humoral theory”, Hippocrates recognized the existence of four humors: blood, phlegm or lymph, yellow bile and black bile. An imbalance between them would produce illness or would result in the death of the human body. He formulated the hypothesis of the mental processes located in the brain. He distinguished the thought (Pneuma logistikon) from feelings and asserted that there are vital fluids.

Hippocrates, often recognized as a good practitioner, made a series of medical innovations. In surgery, he has developed a trepanation device of the skull, while in orthopedics he built a special chair to reduce the dislocations and fractures. The famous Hippocratic oath sounded something like this:

“I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asclepius, and Hygieia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses as my witnesses, that, according to my ability and judgement, I will keep this Oath and this contract:

   To hold him who taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents, to be a partner in life with him, and to fulfill his needs when required; to look upon his offspring as equals to my own siblings, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or contract; and that by the set rules, lectures, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to students bound by this contract and having sworn this Oath to the law of medicine, but to no others.

   I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.

   I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

   In purity and according to divine law will I carry out my life and my art.

   I will not use the knife, even upon those suffering from stones, but I will leave this to those who are trained in this craft.

   Into whatever homes I go, I will enter them for the benefit of the sick, avoiding any voluntary act of impropriety or corruption, including the seduction of women or men, whether they are free men or slaves.

   Whatever I see or hear in the lives of my patients, whether in connection with my professional practice or not, which ought not to be spoken of outside, I will keep secret, as considering all such things to be private.

   So long as I maintain this Oath faithfully and without corruption, may it be granted to me to partake of life fully and the practice of my art, gaining the respect of all men for all time. However, should I transgress this Oath and violate it, may the opposite be my fate.”

Hippocrates recommended the physicians to assist with the same conscientiousness men and women, rich and poor, freemen and slaves, even to show more concern for foreigners and poor people because they need the most help.

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