Sun Si Mioa: Ethical Codes for the Noble Healing Profession

Abstract:  I am indeed fascinated by this man, Sun Si Mioa, who lived in China in the 16th century (581-682 A.D). This great Taoist monk is considered one of China’s great healers who walked his talk. He lived a simple life and shunned fame and fortune. He was said to have turned down the prestigious court appointment of three emperors, preferring to roam around with his bag of herbs and gold needles healing the common people. To him, human life is more precious than a thousand ounces of gold.

Chris K. H. Teo

CA Care, Penang, Malaysia

http://www.cacare.com

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A physician must treat his patients like a parent cares for his children.
Sun Si Mioa, the King of Chinese Herbal Medicine.

I am indeed fascinated by this man, Sun Si Mioa, who lived in China in the 16th century (581-682 A.D). This great Taoist monk is considered one of China’s great healers who walked his talk. He lived a simple life and shunned fame and fortune. He was said to have turned down the prestigious court appointment of three emperors, preferring to roam around with his bag of herbs and gold needles healing the common people. To him, human life is more precious than a thousand ounces of gold (1).

Sun Si Mioa had laid down his thought about the ethics for healers. He wrote:

  • Medicine is an art which is difficult to master and one needs divine guidance to be able to do so.
  • Only foolish physicians think that they can cure all diseases after studying the formularies for three years. And after practising for another three years, they will find out that most formulas are not effective!
  • A physician must therefore become a scholar – reading and mastering the medical literature and work diligently, honing his skills for the benefits of his patients.
  • A physician should cultivate virtue and show compassion to his patients. He should take the sufferings of his patients as if it were his own and shall do his best to heal them without regards to his own inconveniences.
  • A physician should be respectable and humble, and should not be arrogant and brag about his greatness or deride other physicians.
  • A physician should treat all patients alike – rich or poor, young or old, beautiful or ugly.
  • A physician should not use his profession as a means to satisfy his own whims and fancies or as a means to inflate his ego.
  • Those who follow these principles are great healers, otherwise they are no less than great thieves.

The words of Sun Si Mioa echoed through the ages and many people in Chinaand the East went into the healing profession with the main aim of wanting tokiu lang (save people regardless of reward). Are the words of Sun Si Mioa relevant today? I would venture to say that the world needs to heed his advice today, even more than ever before.

I have no doubt that anyone who measures up to Sun Si Mioa’s philosophy would be recognized and regarded as the enlightened one among their people. The world owes him/her that respect. But what then is the situation today?

Lolette Kulby (2) wrote: In ancient civilisation, physicians were noted for their brilliant minds and far-reading knowledge – they were society’s thinkers. Is this true of today’s healers? She said: They are not expected to know anything about art, culture and philosophy – let alone the human sprit. What is required of them is to graduate from a sanctioned medical school and pass state board examinations.

Let us hear what other doctors have got to say about their own fellowmen and women.

Dr. Christina Puchalski, professor of medicine at George Washington University(in 3) said: Physicians are called to service, to put patients’ good above our own. That’s a spiritual calling. But with…( the) making of medicine a business, we’re … losing that sense of purpose and meaning.

Sir James Barr, vice president of the British Medical Association was quoted to have said that: the treatment of disease is not a science, not even a refined art, but a thriving industry.

Paavo Airola (4) ventured to give the reasons behind all these ramblings: The American medical system is a profit oriented, professional monopolistic organization built on the principle: The more sickness, the more profit. The total elimination of disease, be it cancer or anything else, is contrary to the basic economic interests of our medical-drug-hospital industry complex.

Dr. John Abramson was a family practitioner who taught at Harvard MedicalSchool. In his book (5), he said that corporate America had changed the purpose of medical knowledge, from seeking to optimise health to searching for the greatest profits. American medicine has broken its promise. It has squandered Americans of more than $500 billion each year to pay for drugs and hospitalisation.

Dr. George Lundberg was the editor of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) for seventeen years and was fired for singing a different anthem as his paymaster. In his book, Severed Trust (6), he called medicine a terminal profession. It has lost its overriding commitment to care for the poor.

An article in The Sunday Star (23 January 2005) had this heading: Huge disparity in pay structure – private docs earn up to RM 30,000. The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president was quoted to have said that about 95% of the  specialist doctors in the private sector earn between RM20,000 to RM 30,000 per month, an income about three times more than their counterparts in the government hospitals. To me, I tend to believe that RM 30,000 is a very conservative figure! Some doctors dealing with cancer would have earned very much more than that. There is no need to envy them or be jealous about their earning capacity. If they deserve that kind of money, the public should gladly reward them.

However, what is most disturbing is that some of them may abuse their esteemed position of trust and take patients for a risky and expensive ride. This is most tragic indeed. And there is no association like the MMA to safeguard the helpless patients’ interest.

According to Dr. Lundberg, the American Medical Association (AMA) is seen to be more preoccupied with the protection of the physicians’ income rather than anything else. He wrote: when the AMA talks about quality, what it really means is letting doctors do and order whatever they wish, and thereby letting them make as much money as they can.

Prof. Datuk Hamdan Adnan, President, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association, also joined in the fray. In an article reported in The New Sunday Times (23 Feb. 2003) he highlighted some of the ethical problems in medicine today. There are doctors who: dispensed wrong or sub-standard medicine, … spent less than a minute with their patients and …  wrongly diagnose them … prescribed unnecessary medication … to make more money, without realizing the long-term harmful side effects.

In a hard-hitting paper: Ethics in patient care, Datuk Dr. Inbasegaran of  the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital (The New Straits Times, 10 June 2001), was reported to have said the following about the sad practices of present-day medicine:

  • There are instances of patients undergoing prolong periods of treatment in private hospitals being asked to leave and referred for further treatment in government hospitals solely because the patients had run out of funds, not due to the lack of expertise in the private hospitals.
  • There are instances where patients are subjected to unnecessary and inappropriate procedures for the purpose of generating income for the practitioners.
  • There are far too many medical and surgical interventions that are being carried out which may have little benefits to the patients.
  • Datuk Inbasegaran ended by saying that: It is in the interest of the medical profession to be more accountable to the public … the community needs to see that the medial profession is accountable for what it does.

Dr. Joseph Pizzarno (7),  wrote about a research which showed that where there were more surgeons, there would be more operations done.  An area with 4.5 surgeons per 10,000 population experienced 940 operations, while an area with 2.5 surgeons per 10,000 population experienced 590 operations. As the number of surgeons in the neighbourhood doubled so were the cases of surgery. It is said that every doctor in the US needs to perform about 200 operations a year to cover overhead costs and maintain a desired living standard.

Bea Sheridan, a Licensed Practical Nurse in the United States (8) wrote: As a surgical nurse working in the operating room, I watch in horror … healthy organ was removed … for no other reason than the doctors need to finance a new house or a vacation.

Drs. Richard Deyo and Donald Patrick (9), professors at the University ofWashington, Seattle, USA wrote:

  • Medicine  is a  noble learned profession but at the same time it is a business venture.  As we all know, business is about making huge profits.
  • Unfortunately today, the balance between business and professional values has tilted dangerously towards  the business side.
  • Doctors and hospitals … often seem to make choices based on financial returns rather than on good evidence of benefits to patients.
  • When choices involve new treatments, the assumption is almost always that more and newer can only be better. Conveniently, this stance almost always coincides with financial self-interest.
  • It is said that doctors are ever too willing to prescribe the latest drug without even looking into the evidence whatsoever … it makes them happy, it makes the patients happy and it makes the drug rep happy.

I am glad that doctors themselves had spoken out.  I know of many more doctors who had similar messages to tell. Over the years, I too have come across cases of surgeries and medical treatments being given to patients just because patients have the money to pay for them. I am not too sure if these are done in the interest of patients or just a way to earn more money.  Such things do happen – and sometimes often enough to disturb men with souls. 

References

1. Dharmananda, S. Sun Si Miao: Author of the Earliest Chinese Encyclopedia for Clinical Practice. http://www.itmonline.org/arts/sunsimiao.htm

2. Kulby, L. 2001. Faith and the placebo effect. OriginPress.com, California,USA.

3. Strohl, L. 2001. Why doctors now believe faith heals. Reader’s Digest,September 2001, pg. 103.

4. Airola, P. 1972. Cancer: Causes, prevention & treatment: The total approach. Health Plus Publishers, Oregon, USA.

5. Abramson, J. 2004. Overdosed America: the broken promise of American medicine. HapperCollins, New York, USA.

6. George Lundberg, G. 2000. Severed Trust. Basic Books, New York, USA.

7. Pizzarno, J. 1996. Total Wellness. Prima Publishing, California, USA.

8. Sheridan, B. 2003. Medical madness … and you are the victim. Be aware/be prepared. Hospitals and drugs can be dangerous to your health. First Book,Indiana, USA.

9. Deyo, R and D. Patrick. 2005. Hope or Hype: the obsession with medical advances and the high cost of false promises. Amacom, New York, USA.


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In obedience to God's will and counting on His mercies and blessings, and driven by the desire to care for one another, we seek to provide help, direction and relief to those who suffer from cancer.

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