He knew the things that were and the things that
would be and the things that had been before.
OF ALL THE MEDICAL WRITINGS associated with the name of Hippocrates, probably none is better known to the modem reader than the Hippocratic Oath. Since it is the explicit aim in this investigation to identify and expose ancient philosophical perspectives on abortion and euthanasia, and since the Hippocratic Oath appears to absolutely prohibit these measures, the Oath stands as a natural starting point for the present section.
A number of important questions can be raised: What, if anything, is truly unique about the Oath? How was it different from the literature produced by neighboring non-Greek cultures? Who wrote the Oath, and what purpose and influence did it exercise among physicians and laymen in pre-Christian GrecoRoman times?
In addition, it will be necessary to examine the relation of the Oath to the Hippocratic Collection as a whole. One wants to leam whether the moral imperatives expressed by the Oath are in basic accord with the medical practices and constraints expressed elsewhere in that sizeable and diverse body of writings.
To round out this investigation into the emergence of medical ethics, attention will also be given to those lesser-known Hippocratic treatises that deal primarily with medical etiquette. I shall argue that there is a distinct, logical compatibility between the Oath and these latter treatises: taken together, they display an unmistakable and sustained concern for the patient's best welfare.