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FIVE COMMANDMENTS AND TEN REQUIREMENTS

1617 

The Five Commandments and Ten Requirements of physicians constitute the most comprehensive statement on medical ethics in China. They were written by Chen Shih-hung, an early seventeenth-century Chinese physician, and appear in his work An Orthodox Manual of Surgery. The Five Commandments are reproduced below.

 

1. Physicians should be ever ready to respond to any calls of patients, high or low, rich or poor. They should treat them equally and care not for financial reward. Thus their profession will become prosperous naturally day by day and conscience will remain intact.

2. Physicians may visit a lady, widow or nun only in the presence of an attendant but not alone. The secret dis­eases of female patients should be examined with a right attitude, and should not be revealed to anybody, not even to the physician's own wife.

3. Physicians should not ask patients to send pearl, amber or other valuable substances to their home for prepar­ing medicament. If necessary, patients should be instructed how to mix the prescriptions themselves in order to avoid suspicion. It is also not proper to admire things which patients possess.

4. Physicians should not leave the office for excursion and drinking. Patients should be examined punctually and personally. Prescriptions should be made according to the medical formulary, otherwise a dispute may arise.

5. Prostitutes should be treated just like patients from a good family and gratuitous services should be given to the poor ones. Mocking should not be indulged for this brings loss of dignity. After examination physicians should leave the house immediately. If the case improves, drugs may be sent but physicians should not visit them again for lewd reward.

 

[Translated by T'ao Lee. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 13 (1943): 271-272. Reprinted with the permission of The Johns Hopkins Press.]