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The medical ethos is not a linear tradition that has been simply handed down from generation to generation. Medical practitioners have reinterpreted this ethos for themselves, and it also has been molded by each generation of physicians. Hippocrates, in his essay, The Arts, wrote that the physician was to "refuse to treat" those who are overwhelmed by their diseases, realizing that in such cases medicine is powerless. In ancient medicine and until the time of Bacon and Newton, the care of the dying and the hopelessly ill was not considered to be part of a physician’s obligation. Indeed, to do so was felt to be immoral. Similarly, physicians who believed a case was hopeless routinely suggested suicide, and often supplied the lethal drugs with which to accomplish it. The ethos of medicine has changed rapidly in the recent years as a result of court cases which have expanded patients’ rights to refuse or withhold treatment even though death may well be an inevitable result. No one would now argue for the forced treatment of patients against their will, except in cases where mental competence can be questioned or where parents oppose life-preserving interventions for children. The function of medicine is not only to sustain biological life but to relieve suffering. The question to be asked is whether a physician is causing more harm by favoring a slow agonizing death for a patient over one that is rapid and gentle. Allowing a patient to suffer when such suffering can only be alleviated by death, when the patient wants suffering to end whatever the cost, arguably is 'doing harm.'