Margaret Mead quoted in “Hippocrates and Medicine in the Third Millenium”


The following excerpt is from HIPPOCRATES AND MEDICINE IN THE THIRD MILLENNIUM, by Dr. John Patrick, an Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Pediatrics at the University of Ottawa.

It is published by the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and deserves a wide audience.

Sanctity of Life

The main reason for the modern dismissal of the Oath of Hippocrates by those who know its content is its commitment to the absolute sanctity of life. Neither abortion nor mercy killing find any place in the thought of Hippocrates.

Why was this commitment so central?

Margaret Mead, the libertarian anthropologist, clearly understood, when she wrote;

“For the first time in our tradition there was a complete separation between killing and curing. Throughout the primitive world, the doctor and the sorcerer tended to be the same person.

[Doctor and sorcerer] with power to kill had power to cure. . . .

With the Greeks, the distinction was made clear.  One profession, the followers of Asclepius, were to be dedicated completely to life under all circumstances, regardless of rank, age, or intellect – the life of a slave, the life of the Emperor, the life of a foreign man, the life of a defective child…

This is a priceless possession which we cannot afford to tarnish, but society always is attempting to make the physician into a killer – to kill the defective child at birth, to leave the sleeping pills beside the bed of the cancer patient…

It is the duty of society to protect the physician from such requests.


Today, the abortion clinician is both physician and sorcerer in the same person.

Originally published by Jack Yoest: December 18, 2012


Mead M. quoted in Marker R et al.  Euthanasia: a historical overview. Maryland J Contemporary Legal Issues. 1991;2:257-298.


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