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By Willie T. Ong, MD, FPCP
Now being admitted to the profession of medicine, I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity.
After passing the medical boards, doctors make a solemn oath to abide by a code of ethics written 2,400 years ago. For one man, the road to becoming a doctor had been hard and long.
I will give respect and gratitude to my deserving teachers. I will hold in confidence all that my patients confide to me.
He remembers his mentors with fondness. Talking about his teachers like they were his parents. After becoming a heart specialist, he practiced dutifully in the provinces, treating the poor and rich alike.
I will maintain by all the means in my power the honor and noble traditions of the medical profession.
Gradually, he joined the Association of his fellow internists, helping them in their mission, till he slowly ascended the ranks of leadership. But it takes nine long years to become president of his esteemed Association. Through hard work and perseverance, he became vice-president and next in line to the leadership of the Association.
I will practice medicine with conscience and dignity. The health of my patient will be my first consideration
But fate took a twisted turn. Just as he cared for his patient’s health, it was unexpected that he too would succumb to a deadly illness. Cancer of the bowels and it was serious. In shock, his dreams were nearly shattered. So close and yet
My colleagues will be my brothers.
For the first time, he was filled with terror and fear. Fear of dying, fear of the pain, and fear of being alone. But his doctor-colleagues supported him all the way. The only recourse was three abdominal operations. Luckily, he survived that. And then he underwent 16 chemotherapy sessions that burned his skin. He survived that too. And there in the midst of pain and uncertainty, he found an inner tract to God.
Through divine help, he was given a new lease on life. Slowly, he felt his strength return and in fact well enough to become the president of his Association. “I am the first probinsyano to become president,” he remarks.
I will not permit consideration of race, religion, nationality, party, politics and social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.
There is something about a person who has faced death and survived that defies explanation. Some call it courage. Others sense it as a kind of equanimity or unyielding resolve. Something changes.
Even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.
By coincidence or by design, the medical profession was at this time beset with critics clamouring for a medical malpractice bill. Some media personalities portrayed doctors as a bunch of incompetent and greedy quacks. “That’s a darn lie,” he cried. “I know because doctors who took care of me are the kindest lot.”
Quite abruptly, he was made aware of a possible solution to the medical crisis: a return to the doctor’s code of ethics. With the help of his friend, Dr. Edna Monzon, his goal was to draft a practical and ethical guide for doctors to follow, to show the rest of the community that there are many compassionate and caring physicians.
“With purity and holiness, I will pass my life and practice my art.”
There is an order in the universe. And the Code of Ethics may herald the return of the medical profession to its noble and compassionate roots. On May 9, 2003, Dr. Vicente Velez became the president of the Philippine College of Physicians on the 50th year of its founding. In an instant, he became an inspiration to the 5,700 members of his Association and a living testament to the guidance and infinite wisdom of the Great Physician.
These promises I will make solemnly, freely and upon my honor, so help me God. - The Hippocratic Oath 400 B.C.
(Dr. Velez passed away last April 20, 2005. He was 56.)