Ben Carson isn’t the first physician to run for President and, in fact, isn’t the only doctor trying to get into the White House in 2016. He may be the only board-certified doctor, because it’s not clear whether Rand Paul is certified or not. Carson certainly is. All the more reason that when he says something which violates the Hippocratic Oath we should ask whether he has the credentials even to claim that he’s a bone-fide physician, never mind credentials to be the next President of the United States.
Let me make one thing clear about the Hippocratic Oath. It’s not mandatory either to subscribe to it or to follow it. There are some medical schools that don’t, in fact, administer the oath to new graduates, there are also various versions of the oath floating around. But the Hippocratic Oath is a reminder that medicine is a profession whose effective practice requires attention not just to science and learning, but to compassion and ethics as well. After all, we vest the responsibility and often the authority for making life and death decisions within the medical profession. So it’s heartening to know that this profession expects its members to think and behave according to certain basic and well-tested rules.
And rule number one is: Do No Harm. Now these words aren’t, in fact, found in the text of the oath itself. But ask any physician to tell you what it means to subscribe to the Hippocratic Oath and he or she will state either those exact words or words to that effect. Which brings us to the recent statements made by Ben Carson following the slaughter at Umpqua Community College that produced a sickening amount of harm.
The first statement was on Ben’s Facebook page, although he scrubbed it when the responses began pouring in. Nevertheless, here’s the exact quote: “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” In other words, if Carson was practicing in a locality that had very strict gun-control laws like, for example, Washington, D.C., he would claim that the inability of a D.C. resident to carry around a handgun was a greater medical risk than if that same individual was brought into the ER with a bullet lodged in his head. So much for Carson’s ability to stratify gun violence risk, adopt the proper medical response and thereby reduce harm.
Just to make sure that ol’ Ben keeps his bone fides alive with the pro-gun crowd, he then went on CBS and said that if he were facing a mass shooter, the first thing he would do is put up a fight. He would also advise other people in the vicinity to do the same thing. Of course macho man Carson has absolutely no idea of the degree to which such behavior increases risk, and if you don’t believe me, just take a look at the active shooter guidelines issued by the Department of Homeland Security: Run, hide, if all else fails, fight.
Every time Carson opens his mouth about gun violence, he says something that increases risk. If he wants to say something stupid, that’s fine. But when he advises people to do something that increases risk, he’s not just being dumb, he’s violating the Hippocratic Oath. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has posted a petition asking Carson to apologize to the survivors and victims’ families at Roseburg because of the comments he made on Facebook and ABC. The petition says that Carson’s remarks are “offensive and beyond the pale.”
I think it’s now time for the medical community to tell their colleague Ben Carson that he should stop putting the initials ‘M.D’ after his name. Because no doctor who takes his work seriously would make statements like that. Ben doesn’t just offend the Umpqua survivors, he offends the profession which he claims to represent. Shut up Ben, just shut the f***up.