It occurred to me that I should offer my own version of the Hippocratic Oath for modern career politicians who are also medically qualified: there are many of them in the UK and worldwide. At the moment, such professionals face an intolerable conflict between the ancient high standards of ethics in their profession and the pragmatic realities of politics today.
I’ve tried to keep it simple -
“I will strive to preserve life and the quality of life, not only for my patients but for any human being upon affected by my actions and decisions, except where it conflicts with the order of my party whip and/or my political career and advancement.
I will not knowingly support any action, or measure, or decision that will harm a human being, nor will I impede any measure, action or decision that protects human beings from harm, except where it conflicts with the order of my party whip and/or my political career and advancement.”
I feel this simple oath will give the necessary get-out clauses to any medically qualified politician who finds the conflict between political career and medical ethics intolerable. I accept that my experience has been confined to business and commercial ethics, which tend to have a high degree of elasticity, especially where the maximisation of profit and volume sales are concerned.
Business and commercial professionals also have the convenient theory and practice of externalisation to distance themselves from the often inconvenient aspects of ethics, whereby untidy matters of principle can either be outsourced or laid at the door of government. This flexibility has unfortunately been denied to medical professionals – and to some degree members of the legal profession – when facing similar ethical and moral dilemmas, especially in the matter of wars, the rationale for going to war, conflicts, weaponry, WMDs, and measures to protect the health of the population. (Accountants and bankers have long since cracked this thorny problem, as many large corporate audit practices and investment houses regularly demonstrate across the globe.)
The legal profession, however, are well equipped to look after themselves, especially when the blunt instrument of UK libel law is so readily available to them.
Perhaps my little contribution may go some way to promoting a debate that will lead to solutions for hard-pressed politicians, still reeling from the disgraceful press, public opinion and legal attacks on their traditional privileges, in relation to expenses, house flipping, revolving doors to industry, non-executive directorships and consultancy contracts, etc.