primum non nocere

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An ancient dictum of medical ethics, usually translated from the Latin as “first do no harm”. This statement of the principle of nonmaleficence is often mistakenly believed to form part of the Hippocratic oath: its source is not known. Commonly in medical treatment, harm in the form of risks or discomfort precede benefits, e.g. the pain of inserting an intravenous line comes before the effects of the medication delivered via the line. As such, it has been suggested that the correct interpretation is to weigh, avoid, and minimize risks and maximize the benefits rather than to strictly (but unrealistically) ensure benefit occurs in advance of harm. See also risk–benefit analysis.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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