When doctors become politicians do they forget their oath, the part that says "I will keep them from harm"? So it seems.
In the Republican debate last Wednesday, the two doctors on the stage dangerously hedged on vaccinations. They have put children at risk, confused some parents, and made life very difficult for their fellow doctors who have to counsel those parents.
Donald Trump was asked about the connection between lower vaccination rates and fears of autism. We are entitled to expect irresponsible comments from Mr. Trump, but not from people who have taken care of sick patients for a living. The retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson started out well enough, noting that no such connection has been shown in multiple exhaustive studies. But then he called the vaccination schedule into doubt, even though getting off the schedule can be as dangerous as not getting vaccinated at all.
Then Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, bravely announced that he is for vaccination and for freedom. He advocated "spreading my vaccines out a little bit," again giving viewers the impression that the vaccination schedule is optional. Parents who "spread out the schedule" leave their children vulnerable to life-threatening diseases like measles and whooping cough.
The science of vaccination isn't like so much of modern medicine that reasonable people can disagree about. It started 200 hundred years ago and doctors have learned from vast numbers of patients all over the world. In fact they've saved more lives than any of the fancy drugs that pharma touts in their slick ads.
Take diphtheria, one of the diseases that is included in the standard DPT vaccine. If you are an American and remember a kid who got diphtheria you're probably in your 80s. That was when there were 30,000 cases a year in the U.S. Now, like smallpox and polio, there are none.
Ben Carson and Rand Paul could have just said, "Get your kid vaccinated, it's important," and left it at that. Instead they pandered to the crowd. In doing so they violated their moral commitment.
The oath concludes, "If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot."