Saudi Arabia: Hippocratic Oath – Ethical or Compassionate

hippocratic oath


The decision of a Saudi judge to order the surgical paralysis of a 24 year old Saudi man as retribution for an incident that occurred ten years ago has made global headlines.  The majority of the World is outraged by the inhumane decision of this judge.

At the same time, there is another case pending in Saudi courts where an accident victim wants to see the guilty party surgically paralyzed rather than accept the six million SAR she had been offered as retribution.  However, the Jeddah judge who heard this case deferred on a ruling and instead urged the woman to accept the “blood money.”

Not only do these two incidents raise questions on the authority and boundaries of Saudi judges but the issue goes beyond what is viewed as just in the case of an “eye for an eye.”

While one judge made a ruling which basically sanctioned the surgical paralysis of a human being, doesn’t such a directive contradict the international Hippocratic Oath taken by all physicians?

“The Hippocratic Oath is an oath historically taken by physicians and other healthcare professionals swearing to practice medicine ethically and honestly.  It requires a new physician to swear upon a number of healing gods that he will uphold a number of professional ethical standards.”

How could a doctor who has taken the oath to preserve life willingly agree to surgical paralyze an individual?

This also brings up questions about other practices which continue to take place in Saudi Arabia.  A thief may have his right hand removed.  Other charges may result in amputation of both a hand and a foot.  In cases of murder, narcotics, heinous crimes and even proselytizing, the penalty can be death by beheading.  In all of these cases, a physician is involved.  When the accused is expected to survive the punishment, such as an amputation, a physician will administer anesthesia and drugs to prevent infection.  In the case of an execution, the accused is administered drugs to not only dull the pain or reality of what is happening but to make the accused more docile when the act of beheading is carried out.

In such cases, would the physicians role be categorized as ethical or compassionate?


15 Responses

  1. Ugh. It seems like the middle ages…….

  2. The Hippocratic Oath is not a binding legal document and would in any case not be valid in KSA because of the swearing to gods other than Allah. It also has doctors swear they will not “cut” a patient which is not exactly applicable these days. In the case American Bedu cited, a doctor would be acting as an administrator of the court. Just like a legal executioner is not a murderer, a doctor following a judge’s orders would not be guilty of malpractice. As to the fairness of the punishment here, my feelings are definitely mixed.

  3. I can understand this punishment based on tribal justice, but not today. Even in the Quran, it says that it is better to forgive. I would hope that Saudi Arabia, as an Islamic society, would begin to incorporate ‘niyah’ in its judicial system. For those that do not know this term, niyah means ‘intention’, and it is supposed to be an integral part of the faith. I would hope that those who do harm to others, could have some system of restitution, where they go out and educate others about their actions, and the consequences, whether it be an injury based on anger, or a fun ride in the car that turned deadly or debilitating. And in severe cases, I prefer life in prison, rather than capital punishment.

  4. Oh, and back on topic. I don’t think a physician could ever perform a procedure like this, ethically, whether Muslim or not.

  5. Universal declaration of Human Rights

    5, No one shall be tortured be subject to torture or cruel, inhumane or degreading treatment or punishment.
    In a country that violates nearly all Human rights like Right to life. Right to a fair trial etc. etc. in the name of religion….what can you expect???? It would not be so difficult to find or force a physician to do the surgical paralyze.
    All in the name of a rewengeful and injusted “god” on the base of mozaic laws.

  6. I posted this story saying Old Testament justice was alive and well in Saudi Arabia although I’ve heard Jews say this “eye for an eye” thing was just the MOST you could do to someone. There is room for mercy, compassion and intention as Kristine mentioned.

  7. This reminds me of how learning there is a difference in ‘The letter of the law’ and the ‘The spirit of the law’. An eye for an eye is better followed by ‘Vengeance is mine,’ saith the Lord. God or Allah will take care of the vengeance when the time comes, it is for us to be compassionate enough to take the blood money and forgive. The letter of law should keep us from hurting others, and it is the spirit of the law that allows the courts and judges to be merciful to the guilty.

  8. It’s utter barbarity.
    But that is what you get when you believe in ancient barbaric superstitions.

    This is why religions are evil, religions corrode and contaminate people’s inate morality. They prevent those who are made to believe in these ancient superstitions to become better human beings.

    Sad that so many people on this planet are still suffering under the immorality of ancient superstitions thought up by primitive, barbaric and small-minded men.

  9. Aafke
    thats why i think its better to put these “holy books” on the index only allowed for people older than 100 years— children will get traumas from the cruelty and injustice…made in the name of “god” or by “god”

  10. Today on BBC World Saudi is denying they gave approval for this. Perhaps they are yielding to world pressure?

  11. I think so, Wendy.

    On Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 4:14 PM, American Bedu

  12. Ange Bell, ”only allowed for people over 100 years”… Woehahahahahaaa!!!!!
    Brilliant rule!

  13. Yes, very good rule Ange Bel.

  14. An eye for an eye is very different from decisions to paralyse someone and also use a go-between.

    First in some cases that the paralysis was caused, it was unintentional.

    An eye for an eye means that you hit me specifically and intentionally in a location in my body to paralyse me and then I am given the freedom to do BY MYSELF the same thing to you.

    It does not allow others- like doctors to be involved in this ‘ revenge’- that is unethical.

    In the same way it is unethical to paralyse someone without intention and then the victim to be able to paralyse you intentionally.

    Thus here the command of Mosa eye for an eye is grossly misinterpreted.

  15. Good point!

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