A Saudi judge has asked doctors if they would be willing to paralyse a man.  Putting a huge weight on doctors who are governed by the principal: “First do no harm”.

The man concerned attacked and paralysed a 22-year-old man, he served just half of his 14 month jail term, the victims family asked for an “eye for an eye”.

The judge has so far asked if several hospitals would perform the punishment and so far none have agreed.

The Hippocratic oath which originates from the 4th century B.C.E tells doctors that if nothing else they should ensure they do not harm their patients.

But in modern times doctors are expected to perform punishments.  Lethal injections are performed by doctors frequently and in this recent case doctors are being asked to go a step further and perform surgery to paralyse a healthy man.

Just what is the way around this issue? As a future doctor, I certainly wouldn’t want to be involved in the injuring or killing of a person even if they had broken the law.

But could I be breaking the Hippocratic oath?

If all doctors refuse to perform punishments will the punishments stop or could it risk punishments being left in the hands of those who are unqualified? If the latter, then surely the doctor’s decision is putting a patient at risk of harm.