Pantagruelism: A rabelaisian inspiration for understanding poisoning, euthanasia and abortion in the hippocratic oath and in contemporary clinical practice

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 22 (3):269-286 (2001)
Contrary to the common view, this paper suggests that the Hippocratic oath does not directly refer to the controversial subjects of euthanasia and abortion. We interpret the oath in the context of establishing trust in medicine through departure from Pantagruelism. Pantagruelism is coined after Rabelais' classic novel Gargantua and Pantagruel. His satire about a wonder herb, Pantagruelion, is actually a sophisticated model of anti-medicine in which absence of independent moral values and of properly conducted research fashion a flagrant over-medicalization of human problems. Ultimately this undermines the therapeutic core of medicine itself. We contend that PAS is a case of such over-medicalization and that its institution creates medicophobia. This article does not express an opinion about euthanasia in general. Rather, we claim that physicians should learn from the oath and from Rabelais that they should keep their practice to medical care and not to exploit their expertise and social privileges for the sake of ulterior motives, even when their patients desire those goals.
Keywords abortion  charlatanism and abusive physicians  euthanasia  hippocratic oath  medicophobia  role of medicine
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DOI 10.1023/A:1011478729982
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