Doctor Strange “The Oath” is a mystical adventure focused on one mission: Save Wong’s life from cancer. Did Doctor Stephen Strange meet his legal duties as a licensed physician? Did Strange violate his duty of confidentiality to Wong by telling the Night Nurse of his condition? What about imprisoning Brigand in his own mind? It is time to join the Doctor for legal rounds.
You Can Do Magic: Duty of Physicians in New York State
Doctor Stephen Strange is a licensed physician in New York. State laws defines that the practice of medicine is the “diagnosing, treating, operating or prescribing for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition.” N.Y. Educ. Law § 6521 (Consol.). In order to be a physician, state law requires that physicians have earned a degree of doctor of medicine (M.D.); have gained experience; passed an examination board; and be at least 21-years old. See, N.Y. Educ. Law § 6524 (Consol.). Only someone licensed in New York can use the title “physician.” N.Y. Educ. Law § 6522 (Consol.).
Doctor Strange clearly engaged in the “diagnosing, treating, operating or prescribing for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition” of Wong. Granted, most doctors do not have trans-dimensional battles to find a cure for cancer. In the story, Strange defeats a psychedelic beast for Otkid’s Elixar, which has the power to “erase what troubles the mind of man.”
The “Oath” is not about any mystical oath Doctor Strange took, but the “Hippocratic Oath.” The modern version of the Oath is available on John Hopkins Sheridan Libraries & University Museums:
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
Doctor Strange met the requirements within in the Oath to take “all measures which are required,” in order to find a cure for Wong. Furthermore, Doctor Strange sought to uphold his “with special obligations to all my fellow human beings,” by recognizing the importance of the Otkid’s Elixar.
Stephen Strange was right to have the Elixar tested before administering it to Wong. It is professional misconduct to practice medicine with “gross negligence on a particular occasion or negligence or incompetence on more than one occasion.” N.Y. Educ. Law § 6509 (Consol.). Case law has found that administering drugs inappropriately and without adequate testing, coupled with other wrongdoing on multiple occasions, was grounds to find a doctor had acted negligently, grossly negligent, grossly incompetent, and engaged in unprofessional conduct. Prokopiw v Commissioner of Education, 1989 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 5016 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dep’t 1989), app. dismissed, 1990 N.Y. LEXIS 118 (N.Y. 1990).
Secret World: The Duty of Confidentiality
Doctor Strange told the Night Nurse that Wong had cancer in explaining how he (Strange) had been shot. Wong had stated he could not donate blood due to his “situation” and also that their troubles began because of his disease. This is problematic, because while both Doctor Strange and the Night Nurse were doctors, Strange was the Night Nurse’s patient and Wong was Doctor Strange’s patient.
Medical professionals are not to “disclose any information which he acquired in attending a patient in a professional capacity, and which was necessary to enable him to act in that capacity.” N.Y. C.P.L.R. Law § 4504. The patient can waive this right. Id.
Wong arguably waived the doctor-patient privilege when he mentioned both his “condition” and “disease” in front of the Night Nurse. Wong also had to lay down in the operating room. The Night Nurse could rationally believe that she had two patients to care for based on Wong’s conduct. However, an express waiver would make this issue easier to resolve.
Strange Magic: Don’t Tick Off the Sorcerer Supreme
Brigand robbed Doctor Strange of Otkid’s Elixar and shot him with the handgun Hitler used to commit suicide. Doctor Strange, the Night Nurse, and Wong eventually captured Brigand. Strange interrogated Brigand by physically entering Brigand’s mind through the collective consciousness of humanity. Brigand eventually gave Strange the information Strange needed to find who hired Brigand. Due to evidence against Brigand being mystically covered, Doctor Strange physically imprisoned Brigand within his own mind.
Doctor Strange imprisoning Brigand would be a case of first impression for unlawful imprisonment. It could also be grounds for Doctor Strange to lose his medical license. New York states that it is professional misconduct if a physician is convicted of a crime under New York, Federal law, or the laws of another jurisdiction that would also be a crime in New York. N.Y. Educ. Law § 6509.
New York defines unlawful imprisonment in the first degree if he “restrains another person under circumstances which expose the latter to a risk of serious physical injury.” N.Y. Penal Law § 135.10 (Consol.).
Physically imprisoning Brigand within his own mind arguably would expose him to “serious physical injury.” Brigand’s mind could be described as “freaky” and not in a fun way. Moreover, Brigand’s own subconscious could pose a danger to himself, ranging from madness to physical injury.
The fact the evidence against Brigand would be problematic should not give Doctor Strange license to act as a judge. The good Doctor should show more respect for “the laws of man,” as it is those laws that gave Doctor Strange his medical license.
This Magic Moment
Attorneys and doctors are professions dedicated to helping others. Both doctors and lawyers have “practices” where they are entrusted with helping others.
For attorneys, that help comes in the form of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” For doctors, it is the health of their patient.
“The Oath” is an excellent Doctor Strange adventure that connects the dedication of doctors to help their patients and the surreal world of the Sorcerer Supreme.