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Sic Juro

Abigail O'Brien - 2011

SIC JURO 2011 is a piece of work made for the show Apertures and anxieties, celebrating 300 years of the college of Medicine at Trinity College, Dublin. Twenty six artists were selected to work with any discipline of their choice in the College of Medicine. I chose the department of Medical Ethics and was fortunate to work with Professor Orla Sheils, Director of Medical Ethics and Professor of Molecular Pathology.

The Lasagna Hippocratic Oath (1964) is not taken by the young doctors of Trinity College Dublin on graduation. The text of the Oath has been under review by the profession for some time. Having had the experience of spending a long spell in hospital I welcomed to the opportunity to work with Professor Orla Sheils, Professor Molecular Pathology and Director of Medical Ethics at Trinity, on this project, which had the Oath as its centre point.

As a patient, one of the most fundamental things for me was to have been seen and heard by my carers. On a very basic level I was loved and I felt it. The blanket used in this work was the one that covered my hospital bed. Carrying this hand embroidered text, it represents for me, the way that I was cared for and loved by family, friends and medical carers.

In the process of making this piece, the task was to sublimate the essence of the Oath to its very essentials. I wanted it to describe as simply as possible the concept of unconditional professional love – Doctor for Patient.

A tune entered my head one afternoon and it occurred to me right then that the text from the Boyz to Men song “I Swear” (Sic Juro) offered me just what I was looking for – from the ‘Sun the moon and the stars’ to ‘the shadow that’s by my side’. The publishers kindly allowed me to use the text in this work. During my research for the blanket it was suggested to me that for an Oath to have gravitas it needed to be in Latin. I had the text translated by Fr Stephen Redmond S.J. and found on reading, that the Latin provided a timelessness and solidity to the words, that worked.

I am very grateful to Professor Orla Sheils for all the time that she gave to this project, her openness and inspiring conversation.