Hunting For Hippocrates: A Story of Medical Ethics

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Hunting for Hippocrates

Hunting for Hippocrates is a book written by Warren Stucki about Dr. Moe Mathis who finds himself in a mess and later in prison after performing two surgeries that were either sabotaged or compromised by mistakes that were innocently made. Dr. Moe’s first surgery on his lover’s father goes wrong due to a mistaken biopsy or diagnosis. The father dies after complications from the surgery, which leads his wife to leave him. The second surgery Mathis performs is also accompanied by complications after it is found out that the surgical tools used might have been infected hence inflicting the infection on the patient.

Medical Ethical Principles

Respect for Autonomy

The principle of respect for autonomy states that the patient has to be made aware of all the options that are available towards ensuring that they get better health-wise and also allowed to make a choice among the availed options. However, the principle does not apply when the capability to make life-death decisions by the patient is under question, for instance, a patient with dementia (Beauchamp 12). The medical practitioner has the right to respect any decision made by the patient about their own life. Dr. Mathis had performed a biopsy on Howard, who was the father to his lover, Connie, and reached out to the patient that the option available was surgery. Howard accepts to go ahead with the surgery hoping that he would come out of it successfully. Therefore, Mathis did not violate the principle of respect for autonomy; Howard had consent with the decision and was not forced into the surgery decision.


The principle of beneficence requires that the medical personnel should always do good to the patient; this includes preventing any form of harm that might come in the way to ruin the patient’s life (Coughlin 16). From the story, it is evident that Mathis upheld this principle. Mathis had good intentions in both surgeries that went wrong; the doctor planned to rescue Howard from prostate cancer, a condition that had tested positive from the biopsy he conducted, and also rescue Mr. Calley from impotence through implantation of the penile prosthesis. Therefore, his good intentions support his adherence to the principle.


The principle of nonmaleficence requires the practitioner not to cause any harm to the patient during the discharge of medical care or treatment. The benefits of the medical procedure should always outweigh any pain or suffering caused to the patient during the process (Brigham et al.). Infection control and monitoring of other environmental factors are part of the process of nonmaleficence. Mathis violated this principle and harmed the patient. Calley’s surgery ends up with him contracting a bacterium Streptococcus Viridans from contaminated surgical tools. Mathis should have sterilized the surgical tools again immediately before the surgery or should have stored them under sterilization the whole-time awaiting surgery.


The principle of justice focuses on fairness and equity for all. In healthcare systems, the principle requires the medical professionals to apply both distributive and procedural justice. Procedural justice involves conducting a medical process by strictly following all due procedure as outlined by medical laws and policies. Distributive justice enshrines availing enough medical resources for all, such as drugs. In Howard’s surgery, Mathias followed all stipulated procedure; he conducted the biopsy, obtained results, and performed surgery with the consent of the patient. However, Colley’s surgery indicates that the doctor missed sterilization before performing the surgery, hence violating procedural justice. Distributive justice was upheld to the latter.

Doctor-Patient Role Models

Paternalistic Model

In this model, the physician is regarded as the guardian; the doctor informs the patient about the interventions that will improve their health, use their skills to perform medical tests on the patient’s condition, inform the patient on the results, get consent, and perform treatment (Sadati et al. 79). This model is evident in the story as Mathis deals Calley and Howard; the doctor shares the options available, conducts the biopsy, informs Howard of the result, and performs surgery after consent.

Informative Model

The informative model is based on the role of the physician to provide factual information to the patient regarding their condition and treatment options. This model is applied by Mathis while conducting his two surgeries, where he informs Howard about the results of the biopsy and the necessary steps to be taken, and Mr. Calley about the need for an implantation of a penile prosthesis.

Interpretive Model and Deliberative Model

In the interpretive model, the physician is a counselor to the patient, whereby after informing the patient about all medical facts related to their condition, the doctor has to guide the patient in choosing the best mode of treatment by outlining the risks and benefits for each option selected. Mathis also applied this model successfully in the two medical cases. The deliberative model outlines the doctor-patient relationship as that of a teacher and a student, whereby the doctor ensures that the patient picks the best option available. In the story, the best options to remedy Howard’s and Calley’s cases were prostate surgery and penile prosthesis implantation, respectively; options that Mathis guided the patients in choosing.

Works Cited

Beauchamp, Tom L. "Principlism in Bioethics."Bioethical Decision Making and Argumentation. Springer, Cham, 2016. 1-16.

Brigham, Danielle, Shefali Karkare, and Linda Siegel. "Ethical Perspectives: Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Treatments in Pediatrics."Ethics in Biology, Engineering, and Medicine: An International Journal 6.3-4 (2015).

Coughlin, Steven S. "Ethical issues in epidemiologic research and public health practice."Emerging themes in epidemiology 3.1 (2006): 16.

Sadati, Ahmad Kalateh, et al. "Clinical paternalistic model and problematic situation: a critical evaluation of clinical counseling."Journal of health sciences and surveillance system 2.2 (2014): 78-87.

Warren, Stucki. Hunting for Hippocrates. Sunstone Press: 1st edition December 1, 2003. Print

December 12, 2023


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