Healing Virtue-Power by Sūn Sīmiǎo & Sabine Wilms PhD

03 March 2023 | Review
Lianne Aquilina
Member: Lincolnshire & Hertfordshire
When I was asked to review Dr Wilms' new book – Healing Virtue-Power: Medical Ethics and the Doctor’s Dào – I was reminded of our values as practitioner members of the British Acupuncture Council.

Ethics is a system of moral principles that govern behaviour or how people conduct an activity. Applied ethics can encompass what is right and wrong, the balancing of people’s responsibilities, and rights.

Ethical practice supports analysis and problem-solving abilities and can offer guidance on how to live a better, good, and more fulfilling enriching life.

Sūn Sīmiǎo a ‘medical ethicist’ was so motivated to make a change for the care of patients that he created one of the world’s most scholarly revolutionary integrational guidelines.

As BAcC members we have an opportunity to advocate oriental medicine’s best practitioner ethic that encompasses personal responsibility for mastery in patient care. This value was central to and at the heart of the seminal work by Sūn Sīmiǎo during the Tang Dynasty. So, what wisdom did Sūn share?

We are advised by Sūn Sīmiǎo to study a range of literature to become knowledgeable: To apply and refine our theoretical, clinical and critical thinking skills. Other key advice includes staying composed, exercising humility, being kind and empathetic, treating patients fairly and protecting patients’ and colleagues’ dignity.

Sūn expresses that wisdom occurs through processes that transcend our physical body, and that Chinese medicine is a spiritual practice. We should be intentionally, actively virtuous and remember that we are rewarded in spiritual ways not solely through money or recognition.

Clinically, Sūn Sīmiǎo advises to ‘acquaint yourself intimately with each case so there can be no doubt’. He describes that success is ‘experienced as the utmost in both skill and beauty’.

Sūn Sīmiǎo addresses professional practice and the sincerity of great doctors, aiming to motivate his colleagues with inspirational and caring advice on best conduct: ‘If you can be like this, you can serve as a great doctor to the masses’. He advises doctors to open their hearts deeply to patients’ suffering and misery.

One key virtue that stands out to me regarding healthcare and Sūn Sīmiǎo is compassion, which is known to be a result of his eclectic combination of Daoist, Buddhist and Confucian philosophy. Our powers to heal and be healed derive from virtues and stem from developing good habits such as compassion. Also, self and social awareness, self-control, honesty, integrity, reflective practice and action. Professional practice and sublime sincerity of the great doctor are a gateway to a practitioner’s superpower.

The overall objective of Sūn was to alleviate suffering and ill-health within the bigger picture of preservation, cultivation and nurturing life to bring about harmonisation and enlightenment.

Wherever you are in your journey of mastery of practice, I highly recommend that you visit Dr Wilms’s superlative translation of Sūn Sīmiǎo’s two essays ‘On the Professional Practice of the Great Doctor’ and ‘On the Sublime Sincerity of the Great Doctor’.

Dr Wilms takes us on a remarkable journey where we explore medical virtue (醫德 yīdé), the great doctor (大醫 dàyī), virtue power (德 dé) and virtuous actions in alignment with the dao (德行 déxíng), and so much more.

Lianne Aquilina is a practitioner director of the BAcC Governing Board.

Healing Virtue-Power: Medical Ethics and the Doctor’s Dào is published by Happy Goat Productions