Tales from the Practice of Medicine: Medical Ethics (Part II)

Liu Daozi

PureInsight | February 21, 2005

[PureInsight.org] I was born into a family in along line of traditional Chinese medical doctors. I was born after my grandfather passed away, so I did not have the opportunity to watch him practice medicine. But my grandmother and my mother often told me stories of my grandfather and his medical practice.

They told me that my grandfather would often ask his patients to stay after the medical treatment and have a free meal with us. When I heard the story, I was little and did not know what it meant to give those patients free meals. Now that I think of it, it was not easy to offer free meals when the entire Chinese population in general was starving. I recalled that when I was little, we had very little to eat. It was a rare feast to have steamed rice on the table. Most of the time we just had thin rice porridge with very few grains of rice in it. I have five elder siblings who were growing adolescents and constantly hungry for food. Each time my grandfather treated his patient with a free meal, he had to put my five siblings in another room so that they wouldn't stare at the food hungrily and thus made the patient feel guilty for accepting the free meal.

I came from an extended family where my parents lived with my grandparents in a small town in Zhejiang Province. The river in front of our home was the main channel of transportation for the people in our small town. In order to help the boats see the dock when it was dark, the town's people kept an oil lamp on the dock. At a time when there was no electricity, the oil lamp was the only safety device for the sailors and for people at the dock. There was often a shortage of oil at the time. My grandfather took upon himself to supply oil for the oil lamp. He stipulated that our family must make sure there was enough oil for the oil lamp before we used the oil for cooking. As a result, our family often sacrificed our cooking oil. Our family often had to boil vegetables instead of stir-frying them like most Chinese families.

Now I have become a medical doctor like my grandfather, except that I practice medicine outside of China. I often encounter situations that test my medical ethics.

One day when I was busy treating the patients, I received two phone calls asking for an emergency appointment. The two people both suffered from sudden waist injuries, but I only had one time slot available for one patient, so I had to choose one of them. One of them was rich and was willing to pay a lot more money to get that time slot. The other patient had a lot of credit card debts and often had to starve to make ends meet.

As a medical doctor, I know in theory I must not differentiate the rich patients from the poor ones, male patients from female ones, attractive patients from less attractive ones, or relatives from non-relatives. However, in the actual medical practice, I know the patient with credit card debts would never be able to find another doctor willing to give him medical treatment, so I chose to see the patient with debt.

My grandmother used to tell me, "When you see people in need of help, you must offer your hand. Perhaps it is Guan Yin (or Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara) that tries to test if you are a kindhearted person." My grandmother's words were branded in my memory since I heard them when I was little.

Things generally run very smoothly at my clinic. But occasionally I would see one patient after another retching and even pooping their pants right in front of me. When that happens, it is not enough for me to just provide medical treatment. After I get them cleaned them up, I must also comfort them and try to relieve their embarrassment. When I do so, these patients seem to recover from their illnesses much faster.

The ancient Chinese have said very wise things about the profession of medicine. There is one saying, "When you look for a doctor, you must not trust anyone without a kind and loving heart, a superior intelligence, and a superior morality." In other words, a medical doctor must possess many good qualities, most importantly, a kind and loving heart.

Now that I have started my cultivation practice of Falun Gong, I have developed a high standard of medical ethics. As a medical doctor, I must be responsible for my profession and my patients seeking my help. I must also be a positive influence to my patients in terms of morality and compassion. I must help them unconditionally and offer free medical treatment to those patients with reduced financial circumstances. In today's China where the corrupted medical doctors are so common, we truly need more genuine medical doctors who govern themselves and their medical practice with superior levels of medical ethics and morality.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2003/8/27/23178.html

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