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[Perspectives] The surgical theatre

The art of medicine has always involved a bit of artifice. The Hippocratic Corpus, the original medical code, warned physicians not to reveal poor prognoses to their patients lest they extinguish their hope. Although medical care has continued to advance, the palimpsest of the Hippocratic mandate has remained visible in professional rules of conduct. Thomas Percival, credited with drafting the first code of medical ethics (1803), believed in benevolent lying as a way to instil optimism in patients.