Disease, Prolonged Treatments, and Death

Plato, Republic 3. 406d

“I said, ‘A carpenter who gets sick considers it right to take a medicine from a doctor to puke up the sickness or to cleanse his bowels or to escape the disease through fire or incision. But if anyone advises a treatment of long duration to him—wrapping his head with bandages and the steps that follow that—he immediately says he does not have the time to be sick and that there’s no profit in living like this, that if he pays too much attention to sickness he neglects that work before him.

After that, he says farewell to that kind of a doctor and returns to his normal life, returning to health while focusing on his own work. But if his body isn’t strong enough to recover, then he’s free from all his problems because he’s dead.”

Τέκτων μέν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, κάμνων ἀξιοῖ παρὰ τοῦ ἰατροῦ φάρμακον πιὼν ἐξεμέσαι τὸ νόσημα, ἢ κάτω καθαρθεὶς ἢ καύσει ἢ τομῇ χρησάμενος ἀπηλλάχθαι· ἐὰν δέ τις αὐτῷ μακρὰν δίαιταν προστάττῃ, πιλίδιά τε περὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν περιτιθεὶς καὶ τὰ τούτοις ἑπόμενα, ταχὺ εἶπεν ὅτι οὐ σχολὴ | κάμνειν οὐδὲ λυσιτελεῖ οὕτω ζῆν, νοσήματι τὸν νοῦν προσέχοντα, τῆς δὲ προκειμένης ἐργασίας ἀμελοῦντα. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα χαίρειν εἰπὼν τῷ τοιούτῳ ἰατρῷ, εἰς τὴν εἰωθυῖαν δίαιταν ἐμβάς, ὑγιὴς γενόμενος ζῇ τὰ ἑαυτοῦ πράττων· ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἱκανὸν ᾖ τὸ σῶμα ὑπενεγκεῖν, τελευτήσας πραγμάτων ἀπηλλάγη.

Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel [i.e Dr. Beak], a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome ( Paul Fürst, Der Doctor Schnabel von Rom)

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