I would like to share with you Sun Simiao’s ancient and beautiful code of medical ethics. It is found in the preface to a 30-volume book he wrote entitled “Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold.” This book is the first comprehensive encyclopedia of clinical practice and is still studied today, well over 1,000 years later.
It contains over 4,500 herbal prescriptions, as well as information about acupuncture, massage, diet, and exercise. Sun Si Miao lived from 581 to 682 and his code is considered to be the foundation of Chinese medical ethics. It is based on the principles of Confucianism and Mahayana Buddhism, especially the concept of universal compassion and love. Sun Simiao is remembered as the “Father of Chinese Medicine” and there are still celebrations every year in his hometown that commemorate his life.
On the Absolute Sincerity of Great Physicians
Whenever a great doctor treats an illness, he must first of all calm his spirit and fix his resolve. He should not give way to wishes and desires but should develop first of all an attitude of compassion. He must vow to rescue the sufferings of all sentient beings. If someone comes for help, he must not ask if the patient is noble or common, rich or poor, old or young, beautiful or ugly. Enemies, relatives, good friends, Chinese or barbarians, foolish and wise, all are the same.
He should think of them as his closest relatives. He should not be overly circumspect and worry about omens or his own life. He should look on others’ sufferings as his own and be deeply concerned. He should not hide away in the mountains. Day and night, in cold and heat, in hunger, thirst, and fatigue, he should single-mindedly go to the rescue. Whoever acts in this manner is a great doctor for the living. Whoever acts contrary is a great thief for those who still have their spirits.