CHICAGO - Hailing from the island of Kos, the physician Hippocrates is renowned throughout the world as the Father of Western Medicine. Almost 2,400 years after his death, the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine was taken to court for allegedly violating his own oath during a mock trial February 20th at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, part of the Trial Series produced by the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago.
The evening included a compelling debate by local attorneys, with proceedings and decisions by Chicago’s notable federal and state court judges and a jury composed of community leaders, legal and medical professionals, and academics.
The question at hand was weather Hippocrates was guilty of violating his own oath when administering medical care to the dying King of Thebes. Desperate to be cured even when Hippocrates made clear there was no saving him, the king offered the physician various treasures in hopes that this would make a difference. Hippocrates proceeded to offer medicine he believed would make the king’s last days more comfortable. Upon the king’s expected death, however, his son sought justice, citing that Hippocrates violated his own oath in administering medicine that rendered the king incompetent at the very end.
Defending Hippocrates were Robert A. Clifford of Clifford Law Offices, Dan K. Webb of Winston and Strawn LLP and Christina Faklis Adair of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
In his defense statement, Clifford pulled out a snake-entwined staff of Asclepius to demonstrate the symbolism and importance of medicine and healthcare in life, and how Hippocrates bore a great reputation and professionalism, the kind that has survived the ages.
“This symbol is world renowned...it is reflective of the rejuvenation and the good health accomplished by medicine...certainly Hippocrates advocated that,” Clifford said. “He was known as a gentle man, he was known for making sure his patients were kept clean, and he was known as a man who tried to comfort his patients.”
On the prosecution side were Patrick J. Fitzgerald of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP, Patrick M. Collins of King and Spalding LLP and Tinos Diamantatos or Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP.
“Mr. Clifford, do you know why there’s a snake there?” asked Diamantatos, “Because it’s dangerous. It’s a reminder to everyone in the medical field from doctors, nurses, practitioners and everybody that medicine - and to go back to the Greek word “farmaki” - is poisonous. It can be good and cause certain things to get better, but you need to take precaution,” he said.
Dr. Peter Angelos of the University of Chicago stepped in as expert witness, providing his input from the perspective of the king’s son, who was unable to communicate with his father in his final days due to the king’s medicine-induced state. “When someone is dying, there are many things that want to be said. To not have the chance to say those things and have an interaction with his father is very upsetting,” Dr. Angelos said.
“Hippocrates violated his own oath,” Diamantatos attested in his prosecution statement. “There are primarily three reasons why Hippocrates is guilty: conflict of interest...intentional wrongdoing and harm...and [that] he should have known better. Ladies and gentlemen, we have described the ancient origins of the “fakelaki system,” Diamantatos said, prompting the crowd to laugh.
When the defense and prosecution teams had their say, it was the jury’s moment to voice their opinion, leaning in favor of Hippocrates in a vote of 9 to 3, while the panel of judges was split among the Honorables Charles P Kocoras, William J. Bauer, Sharon Johnson Coleman and Anna H. Demacopoulos. At the end of the presentations, it was the audience’s turn to take part, casting their votes by token: blue for guilty and white for innocent. When it came to the vote of the audience, the results were weighed on the scales of justice, revealing significant support in favor of Hippocrates.
“I voted not guilty because I found compelling the argument of Dan Webb that intent was important, and really there wasn’t the evidence to show that Hippocrates had the intent to harm or kill the king,” said Eleni Kouimelis, partner at Winston and Strawn, who has attended every Trial presentation. “I enjoyed this presentation because of the medical overlay and the very relevant ethical issues that doctors face today, so I thought it was very topical and interesting,” she said.
Further extending the mission of the National Hellenic Museum to provide lifelong learning for the entire community, The NHM Trial of Hippocrates was approved for 1.5 hours Ethics continuing legal education, CLE credits provided by Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP, and the event was also approved for 2.5 hours of continuing nursing education CNE credits provided by the University of Illinois College of Nursing IHCI, for attorneys and nurses who attended the event.
“I was very impressed by all the participants, I thought each side presented a strong case with the facts and evidence given, but ultimately I decided that Hippocrates was not guilty,” said Charlotte Huffman of Neal and Leroy LLC, who attended the Trial event for the first time. “I thought that the evidence did not demonstrate that he had the intent to harm the king.”
Members of the 2019 jury included George Bellas, Senior Partner, Bellas & Wachowski, Attorneys at Law; Darby Dickerson, Dean, The John Marshall Law School; Michael L. Galaty, Director, University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology; Hal R. Morris, Partner and Deputy General Counsel, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP; Constance Stavropoulos Palas, Vice President & Associate Counsel, Calamos Investments; Leon Platanias, Director, Robert H Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center; Emily Reusswig, Executive Director, Chicago Cultural Alliance; Leah Rippe, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Brookfield Zoo; Herm Schneider, Head Athletic Trainer-Emeritus, Chicago White Sox Baseball Club; Kris Swanson, Vice President and Forensic Services Practice Leader, Charles River Associates; Terri E. Weaver, PhD, RN, FAAN, ATSF, Dean and Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing; and Dr. Athanasios Zervas, Associate Professor, University of Macedonia Thessaloniki Greece.
The Trial of Hippocrates was the the National Hellenic Museum sixth such event, part of a series including the Trial of Socrates, Trial of Megacles, and Trial of Antigone. "This truly unique event brings Hellenism alive, including our love of learning by prompting critical thinking and citizen involvement in decision making. It's not every day that we as ordinary individuals get to listen to some of the best attorneys in the state argue a case with all the authentic drama as if it's an official trial,” said National hellenic Museum President Dr. Laura Calamos. “Although an ancient story, questioning the quality of healthcare at the end of life is still being debated today, just as it was thousands of years ago," she said.
More information about the National Hellenic Museum is available online: nationalhellenicmuseum.org.