Do No Harm

Do No Harm.

Three short, easy to pronounce words, but when linked, open a vast world of interpretation and consequences.

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Breaking down the phrase:

DO: Verb – Commanding in its tone promoting action.

NO: Adverb – Sign of a negative.

HARM: Noun – Damage or injury, both physical and mental, when related to a person.

This phrase is most often associated with medicine and is from Hippocrates. In some medical schools, students during graduation after receiving their diploma are asked to recite this or take a similar oath and follow this idea. In the Hippocratic Oath, there is a part that states, “I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.” From Hippocrates’ Epidemics, he says: “The physician must be able to tell the antecedents, know the present, and foretell the future – must mediate these things, and have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm.” 

And to clarify, the specific phrase primum non nocere, “first, do no harm,” is not part of the Hippocratic Oath.

A physician, as a general, is not in the mindset of wanting to cause a problem. The physician is interested in helping someone to get better or improve an outcome. They do this after taking a history of the problem and of the patient, after doing an exam, and after synthesizing this information, along with tests and results, to come up with the perceived best path to bring a patient into an improved state of health and wellbeing. Perceived being the opinion of the physician and/or medical establishment.

However, to paraphrase the medieval satirist Walter Map, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Doing good and doing harm can seem very clear, but more often is a razor thin edge. It depends on the side you look at to determine good or harm, both subjective terms, by the way. What the physician thinks is a good thing may not be what the patient or patient advocate thinks is right. The physician thinks the child has a cold and doesn’t need antibiotics, but the parent wants some. Some physicians will not prescribe the antibiotics based on general standards and some will placate the parent since “it is just antibiotics”. There are benefits and harms in both situations. In the first, the benefit is in not treating a virus with an antibiotic. The harm may be to the physician parent relationship. In the second, the benefit is a stronger relationship, but potential harm to the patient by giving antibiotics that are unnecessary. Yes, there can be harm. First, not taking the entire prescribed course can cause antibiotic resistance. You’ve killed off the weak ones but left the stronger ones behind by not taking the full dose or not for the full time. Second, there is a reinforced incorrect idea that you can treat a virus with antibiotics.

Another example is chemotherapy. These incredible potentially life saving medications take cells that are growing out of control and by taking advantage of this rapid growth, target these cells, and for all intents and purposes, eradicate the cancer from a human body. But. There are other cells that grow fast, like hair, which leads to the classic depiction of balding. Depending on the medications, the patient can have long-term permanent changes to heart, liver, kidney, and reproductive systems, and these are not positive changes. Reduce cancer and maybe heart disease? Reduce cancer and get kidney damage? Reduce cancer and you might not have children. These are more extreme, and some people do not suffer from long-term problems. There is still the risk though.

What about medical trials testing out a medicine or procedure? There can be unintended consequences. Unexpected adverse effects. Someone could get injured. And someone could die depending on the extreme of what is being tested and looked at. At the end, some people might develop problems, but the majority could be healthier, perhaps cured. The one or the many?

From not treating a cold to life saving medications, how much harm in the right way is enough to be good? Or how much good can be achieved by needing to cause harm?


being super

I wondered if I could be a superhero. That really is how this starts, but that’s only the start.

Seriously, I am actually taking the time to ponder this stray thought and the ramifications if I ever come across a glowing green ring or radioactive spiders, perhaps even some gamma ray spewing machine. If there is someone reading this that is super smart and rich, I’d be willing to test drive any new power suits you may happen to design that would fit me. But call my AI Alex, just in case I want to change from a male to a female voice. (Note to Amazon, I want to be able to call my Echo Alex.) (PS: look up ways that supervillains have been made.) Moving on.

Villain or Hero. I can take out the super prefix and this still works.

How would I really decide if I wanted to do good or evil? Now I didn’t say BE good or evil. That would require brainwashing, chemicals, perhaps even mystical powers to change the personality or soul to be BE good or evil. I’m also choosing not to say good and bad. Bad would be putting a flaming bag of poo in front of someone’s door. This pondering requires a higher level of wrongdoing, hence, evil.

While there might be pure souls out there, I’d hazard a guess that most of us float around inside. By that I mean we are capable of doing both good and evil things. I can be humming a merry tune walking down the road and help that little ole lady across the street. Most people would consider that good. I could also choose not to help her. I would put that in the not good but not evil section. Maybe 49% good, 51% evil. If I didn’t see her I’d call it fair at 50/50. And pushing her into street would be an evil thing. I think these distinctions are clear. I do admit that trying to define the boundaries between hero/superhero and villain/supervillain is not so easy. I’m guessing it’s a status thing like being a star vs a superstar. Don’t forget to wash your hands if you found yourself grabbing your armpits.

If I use ‘classic’ ideas on this, the hero is usually self sacrificing and in general what would be called a ‘dogooder’. (Thor)

The villain on the other hand is the one who likes to cause mischief because they take pleasure in it. (Loki)

Setting ants on fire with the magnifying glass as a child may be misguided but seeking out another child to burn slips into the evil side. Think The Good Child. Creepy and good movie by the way. (Note to self, try and watch 7 again, even if it was uber creepy and nightmare inducing.)

The majority of those who walk down one of these paths will continue down that chosen path. The hero will continue to save the cat in the tree and the villain will continue to scare the cat right back up. There may be those rare few out there that switch sides. The hero’s beloved is killed because she was too trusting and shared her secret identity to someone that wasn’t as good about keeping it and now she’s on a murderous rampage. The villain might have had an epiphany and a single seed of rainbow juice crept into them to start them on the path into righteousness. Either could have also been in the closet about their true nature and just went with it. Peer pressure sucks in any situation.

I don’t think I have what it takes to be a villain let alone a super villain. The constant evildoing just seems like an awful amount of work but what do you really get out of it. I’d really need to attend an evil job fair to talk to some folk about this. Yeah the money is probably good but are there secret evil dance clubs or lounges? Where would I get my groceries? I assume the quality would be superb since I would just take whatever I want. Skipping the checkout lane would be a major bonus. Waiting in the 15 items and under lane with a full cart and just walking through  once it’s my turn… priceless evil.

Are there many villains that carry secret identities? I can’t imagine that a supervillain would want a secret identity unless it was part of a plan. They would want to flaunt their evilness. The superhero is probably getting sent gifts and invited to cool places and getting into the popular clubs, and getting laid. I almost left that last part out. At first I was thinking that would be an abuse of the position and would relegate said person to hero status instead but on reflection, that would be vilifying sex. (Why does vilifying only have one l?) If two people consensually decide to go for it, that’s an ok thing, even if it might be from ‘hero worship’. Looking up to someone is a gradation and hard for me to define the lower and upper limit. As well, two (or more) people have their own reasons, perhaps dare say, love. Using superpowers to attract the other person would be the no-no and abuse. It would be enough to knock someone right out of hero status. That’s not to say that the villains are being left out. There are assuredly evildoer groupies out there as well for the villain to get some action. Whether or not they need to, they are probably using their powers if they have them, it’s just more evil that way.

As I was pondering on this possible career change a problem occurred. Neither category works for me. Where my thinking went on this was that I would head down a third path. Including the evildoing above (who really wants to change identities just to pick up some milk?), I don’t get announcing myself before appearing to save the day. Doesn’t that just give the evildoers a chance to get away or set something up to harm me? What’s the point in that? Hmm… as I’m writing I’m seeing batman as a possible mentor. (Note to self, find the bat cave.) (PS: Without superpowers this would require me to be in naturally shape. Restart eating better and exercising tonight.) Just to make things clear, I’m NOT looking to be a sidekick. (What the hell is a sidekick, a kick to the side? Note to self, look up what kick might have meant. ?partner?). I’m also not looking to wear spandex. Too many people already wear it.

So where does this leave me? I already have one job. It’s keeps me busy and there is always more to learn within it. I’m tabling this job change for now, until/unless one of the prescribed methods of power acquisition occurs. There would be much more pondering needed should this happen. As well, what if I was given supervillain powers. I would then have to start pondering the intrinsic nature of said powers as to whether it is the power or the user of the power that would define one as hero or villain.

Anyone with superpowers please feel free to comment on this. It would be helpful research.


in and out

Like many others this winter traveling season I got stuck in an airport with a canceled flight. It sucks. There’s no way around it. Your gate gets switched three times and you have to pick up your stuff and move each time since the announcements are only there in the new area. There goes my plug I was charging from.

Once things seem stable they announce they are ready to board the plane. First class, families, elderly, etc, then the other people. Most airlines have reassigned seats. There is only one that I know of that you pick the seat you find once you’re on board.

You file in line in whatever queue fashion is established by the airline. You board, hope you have overhead space for your carry on and you get yourself strapped in. I remember reading in the past of a better way to board a plane that had to do with seating windows from the back to front first then moving in or something like that. I don’t think this would be a problem if there was enough overhead space so people could make sure their carry on could make it. People could just be assigned an actual order number to board instead of scrambling to be the first in your group. Of course there is also the issue of people bringing a large carry on and a large personal bag and trying to jam them in. Maybe make people use the space under the chairs as well and not just stuff everything overhead? Just thinking. Moving on.

But when we disembark (?unboard?) why don’t we do this in reverse of how we boarded?  You were in say group B or 2 but your seat is over the wing for a more stable flight and got all of your things on. Now you’re stuck waiting for everyone else to get off before you can get out if you aren’t in the aisle. Why do we wait for person after person to leave before we get up?

I’ve seen people in the back just walk up as far as they can as soon as the signal came to unbuckle and leave. They may have had a small carry on and the rest checked in and could move faster to leave. People look super pissed that someone broke the normal order of things. Maybe they were that first person to board in that broup B/2. Does that then give them the right to move out as fast as possible? What about those people that needed the extra time getting on? Should they need to wait until all the faster people are out? Maybe those who only have carry on get to leave first and those that have to wait for checked in bags leave after? If you are on a flight where you stay on the same plane, they ask that you wait until everyone else leaves before leaving so they can get a head count. Then you can leave to get a bite to eat or just stretch. Perhaps I’m giving too much credit to people to be good to one another.

It really was interesting to see the reactions from the people as this well dressed man walked with confidence from the back to just ahead of where I was seated. I was more amused than even bothered. It was a direct flight. I had nothing checked in. I just needed to get off the plane. Maybe if I had been on the aisle I would have done the same and just pushed up. Wouldn’t that have been more efficient also? Less time and space being used as I see it. Maybe I will the next time I have a chance. If someone is picking me up, they don’t have to wait so long either.

Ultimately, I can’t see us being this good and kind to each other just yet as far as how to board and getting off. Even though we board differently, there is a sense of social order involved with getting off. A time and place make us feel comfortable. Disrupting that might make people feel unequal. Almost as if you were the last person to get on and had to put your carry on in the last row even though your seat is up front. That just plain sucks. You can’t do anything until everyone else is off. You might have even saved time by checking it in although that would be an issues of time vs money.

I wonder if the people in first class feel the same if they are row 3 and have to wait to get off. Hmm..

An interesting thought from an interesting situation.

-Santa’s Fallen Angel