Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath

I look at him, the sorry face
I know I have to take this case
It's who I am, it's what I do
If you were me, you'd have to, too.

Dr. Shuffhausen, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels The Musical

You're a doctor, who for whatever reason, is in major league trouble with the law. Various plot reasons have put you in a hospital, where you're trying to blend in as just another doctor, rather than the one for whom there's a huge manhunt - or, alternatively, a character who isn't supposed to be a doctor at all, such as a janitor.

And then you notice a patient in critical condition. He's choking, spasming, about to flatline, and none of the doctors attending him can figure out what to do about it. However, you figure it out with a glance, and your inherent morality compels you to risk your cover and safety to interfere and help another.

A subtrope of Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help and its related tropes: Honor Before Reason, Samaritan Syndrome, and Chronic Hero Syndrome. Compare Obstructive Code of Conduct.

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Monster doesn't have a direct hospital scene, but Tenma gets in repeated trouble for being a fugitive messiah who is ultimately unable to see any human suffer without doing something about it. He does this so often that it frequently winds up working out in his favor anyway. "Oh, hi, police officer who's about to arrest me. Don't mind me, I'm just performing life-saving surgery on your mother."
  • Chopper falls into this during One Piece's G8 filler arc. While trapped in a naval base, the soldiers of which are actively hunting Chopper and the rest of the Straw Hats, Chopper discovers that the medical staff is woefully undermanned, and the one remaining doctor suffers from hemophobia. He ends up overseeing surgeries and other general treatment for a short time before trying to escape.

    Comic Books 
  • This was originally Batman villain the Crime Doctor's schtick; a surgeon turned gang boss who refused to hurt anyone, and abandoned a burglary in progress to save Robin's life. Judging from his appearance in Villains United, though, if those stories are still in continuity, he's changed his mind.

    Fan Works 
  • "Last Rights": Averted. Warragul Wirrpanda, the USS Bajor's chief medical officer, would be perfectly happy to leave the Kobali to the Vaadwaur after the discovery that the Kobali were killing Vaadwaur soldiers in stasis and using them for reproductive stock. It's the Delta Alliance brass who are being inconvenient.
    Cdr. Birail Riyannis: Not very Hippocratic of you, Doctor.
    LTJG. Wirrpanda: Feh! Hang the bloody Hippocratic Oath—the Kobali have it coming after what they pulled.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, although in this case Kumar is a slacker and the scene shows how he would be a skilled doctor if he applied himself.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, McCoy stops on a mission to retrieve an injured Chekov to cure a dialysis patient, muttering something about how primitive 20th century medicine is.
    • Even funnier is that all he does is give her a pill, and she instantly grows a new kidney her kidneys immediately start working again. And this is after a speech about how they can't change anything. McCoy agreed completely with the speech...and still stopped instantly to help the woman.
  • In The Greatest Show on Earth, Buttons, on the run for Mercy Killing his wife, breaks his cover to treat people injured in the trainwreck at the end of the movie, whereupon he is recognized immediately and arrested in the penultimate scene.
  • In The Fugitive, Kimble sneaks into a hospital disguised as a janitor, then takes enough time to correct the diagnosis for a child after admitted from a bus accident, and sends him to the right department. It almost gets him caught but it's the first thing to tip Gerard off to the possibility of Kimble's innocence.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Richard Kimble, of The Fugitive, may be the Trope Maker here.
    • He does it again in the movie version, and nearly gets captured for it. The attending doc doesn't take kindly to a "janitor" redirecting her patients.
  • Played with in the Firefly pilot, where Dr. Simon Tam is so desperate he claims he is willing to let an innocent definitely die simply to give his sister a chance of survival, which would be a subversion of this trope if true. However, as soon as Mal concedes, Simon immediately begins treating the patient (Kaylee) without any attempt to ensure the deal will be honoured. Kaylee is entirely convinced he was bluffing, and later on Mal tests him by lying to him about her condition deteriorating to see how he reacts.
  • The Incredible Hulk had this happen often.
  • In an episode of ER, an Eastern European immigrant working as a janitor with a Worthless Foreign Degree in medicine jumped in to stabilize a patient, then fled in terror convinced she would be arrested/deported or at least lose any chance of getting herself recertified as a Doctor in the 'States.
  • In an episode of Diagnosis: Murder, Dr. Mark Sloan is at a retirement home disguised as a wheelchair-bound senile person in order to investigate corruption. At one point, another character needs emergency medical treatment, so Sloan has to irrevocably blow his cover in front of all the staff and residents to help.
  • On Lost, Jack is captured by the Others in season three and made to do surgery on Ben, who is dying of a spinal tumor. While on the operating table he deliberately makes a deadly incision in order to force the Others to let Kate and Sawyer go, who are also captives. The Others call him out on this, saying that there's no way his morality would allow him to let a patient die. This also provides a problem for Jack at other times, such as being complicit in torture.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Mirror Mirror''. While several main characters are trapped in a Mirror Universe, Dr. McCoy insists on taking the time to treat an injured Evil!Spock even though it may prevent them from getting home.
    • And in Star Trek: Voyager, this is literally written into the Doctor's code. A big part of his Character Development, however, is that he learns to subvert it for the greater good. In one episode, when kidnapped and forced to work on a hospital ship where people aren't being treated equally, he pretty much poisons a guy to force him to change the rules. In another, he lets a Red Shirt die to save Kim, having lacked the time to save both while his normal diagnostic program could not decide which to prioritize for care.
      • The latter incident does cause him to experience a Logic Bomb which nearly destroys his program in what they call a "cascade failure". The first time this happens, Janeway wipes his memory of the events and orders everyone to keep quiet. When he finds out again, Seven convinces Janeway to let it play out. Eventually, the Doctor is able to reconcile with himself and get back to his duties.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "I, Borg", the Enterprise gets a signal from a crashed ship, but when they arrive, they see it's a Borg ship, with one surviving drone in critical condition. Picard orders the away team to kill the drone to make it seem it was killed in the crash, but Dr. Crusher insists on treating the drone, saying "When I look at my patient, I don't see a collective consciousness, I don't see a hive. I see a living, breathing boy who has been hurt and who needs our help.", prompting Picard to reluctantly allow her to treat him.
  • Subverted in M*A*S*H. If you don't like someone or his beliefs, drug him or perform an unnecessary operation on him. Hippocratic oath be damned.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Defied by the quote for the Medic template in Feng Shui:
    "I don't see plugging a maniac like you as a violation of the Hippocratic Oath at all. Basically, I look on it as preventative medicine."

    Video Games 
  • Lucas Kane from the game Fahrenheit (known as Indigo Prophecy in some countries) isn't a doctor, but his paranormal abilities put him in a similar position shortly after becoming a fugitive. He has a prophetic vision of a boy falling into an icy lake, but nearby is a police officer who would recognize Kane's face. It's up to the player how to react:
    • Walking away results in the boy dying, and Kane taking a hefty hit to his sanity meter.
    • Diving in, but failing the pull-the-boy-to-the-surface mini-game results in your drowning. Game Over.
    • Rescuing the boy, but failing CPR results in you being seen by the cop, arrested and incarcerated for murder. Game Over.
    • If you manage to save the boy's life, the cop sees and recognizes you but, in unspoken recognition of your heroic act, allows you to go free (though the cop later reports the incident to Carla Valenti), with a reward of sanity points.
  • Meta-example: The "First, Do No Harm" Medic achievement in Team Fortress 2 forces the player not to use any form of attack for an entire match, no matter what, or they lose any chance of getting the achievement that round. Of course, they'll also have to have good luck with their choice of healing buddy to get the achievement, along with the chance of a winning player to leave the match midway through.
  • It happens to CR-S01 twice. The first time it happened CR did not think to escape only Ian thought he would. The second time the trope it invoked word for word. CR is there, he sees a man fall he sees Ian one the surgery side and the exit on the other. In both cases he chooses to help the patient.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy lampshaded it once, with Dr. Hartman actually muttering under his breath "Lousy Hippocratic Oath."