Fearing that the ethical standards of medicine might be slipping, the British Medical Association recently issued a awake-up call by making a committment to centuries-old tradition of the Hippocratic Oath: all medical graduates are again expected to swear adherence to it. Somewhere along the line the oath became passe; currently only half of British medical schools offer any form of oath-taking at graduation. In any event, the British ought to be commended for at least rediscovering that it is useful if doctors adhere to a common set of principles.

And none to late, as some of the outposts of British medical community seem to be heading over the clift. News has just arrived of the appearance in England this month of the "lunch time" abortion, a 10-minute "walk-in, walk out" service now available at Marie Stopes International clinics' a registered charity, at centers in London, Leeds and Manchester.

Using a new local anesthetic and the common vacuum-suction technique, Marie Stopes has marketed their new "convenience service" for the working woman of the'90s, with as little time for this as for a visit to the dentist's office. This absurdly crude attitude toward a life and death decision is being pushed hard by Marie Stope's chief executive, Dr. Tim Black, who considers the 10-minute, up to 12 week-old-fetus procedure as "a quantum leap in service delivery" and "the most important and positive development in abortion provision since the passage of the Abortion Act.

This may well be the age of instant gradtification and quick fixes, but the Stopes lunch time abortion service has turned more then a few heads. Even the goverment's pro-abortion Public Health Minister, Tessa Jowell, who approved the licenses of the centers in May, accused Marie Stopes of "trivializing" abortion. Rival abortion services worry about the risks and lack of counseling involved. Pro-life groups have planned protests and vigils, and have said they will contest the clinic's charity status, especially considering it had a 14 million pound turnover just last year from procedures like this.

If required to do so, Marie Stopes's practitioners could probably find justification for their services somewhere inside the newly rediscovered Hippocratic Oath. But the oath's benefit, we suspect, is that it would cause many young doctors to conclude that something like this isn't quite why they entered the profession of medicine.

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