Sun Simiao's Ancient Medical Ethics
Sun Simiao, King of Medicine
I would like to share with you Sun Simiao's (581 to 682 AD) ancient and beautiful code of medical ethics. It is found in the thirty-volume encyclopedia he authored entitled "Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold." This was the first comprehensive record of the practice of Chinese medicine ever written and is still studied today. This amazing work contains thousands of herbal prescriptions as well as information about the many health benefits of acupuncture, massage, dietary therapy, and exercise. Sun Simiao's was so highly regarded in his time that two different emperors of the Tang dynasty offered him a position as the imperial physician. He declined these posts, however, to devote his life as a physician who served the common people. His code of medical ethics is found in the first volume of his encyclopedia and is considered to be the foundational text on the subject, often being referred to as the “Chinese Hippocratic Oath.” It is unique in that it is based on the principles of Daoism, Confucianism, and Mahayana Buddhism, especially the concept of universal compassion and love. Sun Simiao is remembered as the "King of Medicine" and is honored in his home town with a school of Chinese medicine that bears his name and yearly celebrations that commemorate his life. In my own practice I strive to follow his most honorable example.
On The Absolute Sincerity of Great Physicians
I promise to follow the way of the great physician. I will serve to live in harmony with nature, and teach patients to do the same. Whenever I treat an illness, I will first of all calm my spirit and fix my resolve. I shall not give way to wishes and desires but shall develop first of all an attitude of compassion. I vow to rescue the sufferings of all sentient beings. If someone comes for help, I will not ask if the patient is noble or common, rich or poor, old or young, beautiful or ugly. Enemies, relatives, good friends, Chinese or foreigners, foolish and wise, all are the same. I shall think of them as my closest relatives. I shall not be overly circumspect and worry about omens or my own life. I shall look on others' sufferings as my own and be deeply concerned. I shall not hide away in the mountains. Day and night, in cold and heat, in hunger, thirst, and fatigue, I shall single-mindedly go to the rescue. It will be my duty to diagnose suffering and treat disease. I will not be boastful about my skills and not driven by greed for material things. Above all, I will keep an open heart. As I move on the right path I will receive great happiness as a reward without asking for anything in return. Whoever acts contrary is a great thief for those who still have their spirits. Whoever acts in this manner is a great doctor for the living.