by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — This spring, graduating doctors all over the nation took the Hippocratic Oath.
Six new, Catholic doctors decided to take the oath twice in one day — plus make an additional promise.
The Catholic doctors gathered at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas, for a graduation Mass at 1 p.m. on May 12.
During the Mass, they took a “Restatement of the Oath of Hippocrates” administered by Dr. Joshua Mammen, associate professor of surgery at the University of Kansas Medical School and treasurer of the local Catholic Medical Association guild.
The “Promise of a Catholic Physician” was administered by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
The Catholic doctors were: Eric Anderson, Clifford Kissling, Eastin Casey, David De La Cruz, Elise Loughman and Kyle Wells.
These six doctors were members of the Catholic Medical Student Association, which is sponsored by the local Sts. Cosmas and Damian Guild of the Catholic Medical Association.
Later that afternoon, the doctors took another version of the Hippocratic Oath at a hooding ceremony with their classmates at the University of Kansas Medical School in Kansas City, Kansas.
Why take the oath twice?
Because there is no one Hippocratic Oath — and they don’t all uphold the same values.
The original oath — which is believed to have been written in the fourth or fifth century B.C. and is named after the Greek physician Hippocrates — has been greatly modified over the centuries.
Today, there are several versions.
With most modern versions of the oath, promises made to the pagan gods are gone, and so, too, are promises not to perform abortions and administer drugs for the purpose of euthanasia.
The restatement, which was introduced by the Value of Life Committee, Inc., in 1995, is closer to the original oath and more faithful to Catholic morality.
This is only the second time graduating Catholic doctors from KU School of Medicine have taken the restatement.
“It happened for the first time last year in the archdiocese, and I believe there are a few other groups that do this in the country,” said Dr. Paul Camarata, a professor and chairman of neurosurgery at KU Med Center. He is also adviser to the Catholic Medical Student Association.
“There are certain issues that Catholic physicians should be vigilant about in their practice,” said Camarata. “These physicians will go out and be asked to perform abortions, some of them, in their residency programs. They’ll be asked to administer contraception, contrary to their conscience, to young teens.
“So, we help them form their consciences according to Catholic teaching. As a help for that, Archbishop Naumann has been incredibly supportive.”
Doctor Eric Anderson, who will enter the residency program at Via Christi Family Medicine in Wichita, thought taking the restatement was important.
“I thought it was pretty important to me as a Catholic physician to begin my medical practice by reciting the original Hippocratic Oath and the ‘Promise of the Catholic Physician,’” he said. “I don’t think you can separate who you are as a person from who you are as a physician.”
Doctor Kyle Wells, who will also enter the residency program at Via Christi, took the oath and promise during the Mass because he wants his practice of medicine to be faith-based.
“In order to serve my patients to the best of my ability, my faith has to be at the center of my service,” he said.
He also said how grateful he and the other graduating doctors were for Archbishop Naumann’s support.
“It was exciting that the archbishop was willing to reach out to the medical students and show interest,” he said. “For him to recognize the kind of service we are about to embark upon means a great deal to us students.”
Doctor Elise Loughman, who will begin her residency at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, thought it was important to end her education with a graduation Mass.
“I took the Catholic version of the Hippocratic Oath because it represents the values I want in my personal practice as a Catholic physician, and they were not included in the oath we were required to take [at KU School of Medicine],” she said. “I felt my values and faith need to be represented in a way that I wouldn’t get otherwise.”
The KU oath didn’t conflict with her faith, but it didn’t include what she considered to be important — the dignity of human life.
“To me, that’s the most important omission,” she said, “and is the reason I wanted the Catholic Hippocratic Oath as my guiding [philosophy] in my practice.”
She believes that the Catholic faith has to be lived in every aspect of one’s life.
“To me, being a Catholic doctor means honoring and respecting human life from conception to natural death,” said Loughman. “To me, it means living Jesus’ values and core teachings through your profession in a way that other people wouldn’t be surprised to find out that you’re Catholic.”