Created By: Pannic on April 26, 2014 Last Edited By: Arivne on April 28, 2014

First Do No Harm

The doctor/medic is a pacifist.

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Doctors (barring evil ones) are often portrayed as perhaps the most morally upright individuals in society. The Hypocratic Oath is a pretty lofty ethical ideal, after all.

In keeping with this, there is often a tendency for doctors in fiction, particularly in works that have team dynamics, to be portrayed as pacifists.


Examples

Anime and Manga

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H, who is more or less opposed to the war and only got into the army because he failed at draft-dodging.

Video Games
  • While the Medic in Team Fortress 2 is most certainly not a pacifist, there is an achievement for topping the scoreboard without killing anybody.

Real Life
  • Numerous conscientious objectors in WWII who signed up as medics (such as Desmond Doss).

Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • April 26, 2014
    Omrega
    Is this Actual Pacifist only with doctors?
  • April 26, 2014
    Pannic
    ...Kinda, yeah.
  • April 26, 2014
    DAN004
    We don't seem to have Hippocratic Oath yet.

    Simply Pacifist Doctor should work for the title.

    I wanna argue though: aren't doctors supposed to be pacifists by default?
  • April 26, 2014
    lexicon
    Doctors are supposed to be pacifists by default. What is noteworthy is a doctor who expresses feeling bad when he loses someone even though he did everything he could.
  • April 26, 2014
    DAN004
  • April 26, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Doctor Who: The Doctor claims to be one at various times, especially in "Night of the Doctor" where he explicitly says he's not a participant in the Time War between the Time Lords & Daleks.
  • April 26, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    People Sit On Chairs.

    "Doctors don't harm people" is the norm. That's why Morally Ambiguous Doctorate is a trope in the first place.

    "there is often a tendency for doctors in fiction, particularly in works that have team dynamics, to be portrayed as pacifists."

    Because that's the attitude they're supposed to have.
  • April 26, 2014
    Arivne
    • Formatted the Examples section.
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Sorted examples by media and added media section title(s).
    • Namespaced and italicized work name(s).
  • April 27, 2014
    Tallens
    When I look at this I think of those doctors who have attitudes about this that actually make things worse. Or cases where the doctor's moral compass is a bit off in which case they'd need to be reminded of their oath.

    For example:

    • In the Star Trek Voyager episode "Message in a Bottle", the Doctor is transmitted through an alien relay to a Federation starship on the other end, which he finds has been taken over by Romulans. When one of them is injured during a fight with Starfleet, he insists on treated him first, and then retaking the ship.
  • April 27, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ Tallens

    That's more tropeable. Good catch.
  • April 27, 2014
    DAN004
    I also thought of a doctor who helps the opposing side who are injured (without changing sides) because of the oath of "helping and curing everyone". Mc Coy of Star Trek and Chopper in One Piece come to mind.
  • April 27, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ That makes this trope True To The Hippocratic Oath.
  • April 27, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Live Action TV
    • On Law And Order Special Victims Unit, Dr. Melinda Warner once aided Casey Novak in taking down another doctor who was facilitating the torture of suspected terrorists. The episode made it very clear that Warner believes that the Hippocratic Oath still applies during a war.
  • April 27, 2014
    eowynjedi
    Hmmm. I think there are a couple ways it could be done? One is Tallens'/DAN's idea of "doctor will treat the enemy too" (which sounds pretty tropable since I can think of multiple examples as well). The original idea isn't necessarily not a PSOC, though—the description as it is now does mention team dynamics, which sounds the most applicable. Like, if you have a Five Man Band (or Power Trio or whatever), or a work that's combat-heavy, the one character who's a noncombatant is the doctor. (First thing that comes to mind is Simon Tam from Firefly—Kaylee the Wrench Wench isn't a fighter either, but Simon's not a fighter because he's a doctor. Admittedly debatable; it's just off the top of my head.)

    It's also not just about being a noncombatant, but refusing to become a combatant even if the situation would justify it (and if they absolutely have to, feeling bad about it because of their doctorly principles).

    In that case, WWII and Monster would apply to this, because they're about doctors explicitly refusing to hurt people when they're in combat/danger, and the work does not paint combatants as being immoral. A show like ER or St Elsewhere would not apply unless there's a particular situation a doctor could solve by, e.g., shooting someone, and refuses because Doctor. Otherwise it doesn't apply just because you'd never expect the doctor to be in combat in the first place.

    In this case, Star Trek's doctors probably wouldn't count because most of them become a Combat Medic at some point, but they'd all count (IIRC) for a "Hippocratic oath for enemies too" trope.
  • April 27, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Contrast Combat Medic, who has no problem with hurting people as well as healing them, and Deadly Doctor, who uses his/her medical skills to hurt people.
  • April 27, 2014
    robinjohnson
    Note that doctors don't have to take the Hippocratic Oath in real life - among other things, it specifically forbids performing abortions.
  • April 27, 2014
    Tallens
    My idea wasn't so much the doctor will treat the enemy, as much as he holds to this idea of do no harm to the point that it gets in the way and causes problems itself.

    This might illustrate it a bit more:

    • Doctor Stephen Franklin on Babylon Five takes his role as healer very seriously. During the Earth-Minbari War, he was approached by Earth Force to use his notes on Mibari physiology to create weapons that would be more effective on them, but he destroyed his notes, even though losing the war would mean the end of humanity. In the series itself, he performed surgery on a child whose culture had a religious taboo on such things, opened a free clinic in downbelow for the homeless using station resources, helped unregistered telepaths escape Psi Corps, and started using stims so he could keep working longer and treat more people. All of these decisions had the potential for friction with his superiors and in some cases a diplomatic incident.

    The kind of doctor I'm thinking of is a rather haughty and self-righteous individual, which Franklin and Voyager's EMH can both be to one degree or another.

    I think DAN and I have two similar but separate ideas, which may both be worth their own tropes.
  • April 27, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ your idea is closer to Suicidal Pacifism...
  • April 27, 2014
    Tallens
    ^That's making no attempt to stave off imminent death. The part about him burning his notes would fit in with that, but the rest of it not so much.
  • April 27, 2014
    Pannic
  • April 27, 2014
    DAN004
  • April 28, 2014
    randomsurfer
    I'm gonna call Citation Needed on the thing above about doctors are "supposed" to be pacifist. Doctors aren't supposed to use their specialized knowledge of the human body for evil, sure, but that doesn't mean an individual doctor isn't allowed believe that a given war is a good idea, or go into battle, or that a gun is the best means of defense, etc.
  • April 28, 2014
    Pannic
    I'm going to say that I don't think this is People Sit On Chairs. People Sit On Chairs doesn't just denote something that's "common" or "default" (otherwise The Hero or Big Bad would also fall under that) but because it's common and doesn't say anything about the story/theme/character/motif.

    I think this is valid as a trope because it's a character type that's shown up a fair few times and there tends to be a thematic link. So I don't think it's an example of People Sit On Chairs.
  • April 28, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ like Non Ironic Clown?

    btw, on the subject of "the oath being a hindrance" or "doctors helping the other side", I guess Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath covers those. That should be mentioned in the description.
  • April 28, 2014
    Tallens
    ^That's about a fugitive who happens to be a doctor risking blowing their cover to treat someone. If anything that would be a subtrope to this.

    Although, it seems we still haven't quite figured out what this actually is.
  • April 28, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ then IHO is unnecessarily specific.
  • April 28, 2014
    StarSword
    Possible page quote:
    "The only reason you won't die ... is that I've taken an oath to do no harm."
    The Doctor, VOY: "Heroes and Demons"
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