Home - Patient Safety

The Caduceus
and the
The Rod of Asclepius

In Roman iconography the twin snake Caduceus often was carried in Mercury's left hand. Mercury was the protector of gamblers, liars and thieves among others - not a healer or a protector of patients.

It is the Rod of Asclepius wound with a single snake that was the symbol associated with medicine in ancient times. It was associated with healing and astrology.

It first became associated with medcine during a period when parasites were one of the most common problems that patients had. One was a worm that burrowed just under the surface of the skin. Physicians became adept at identifying where to cut in order to grab the end of it and wrap it around the lance in order to pull the entire worm out. If done less expertly by someone less practiced, half a worm could be left in where it would become infected.

This was so common and so successful that physicians came to be identified by the lance they carried for that purpose, much like today they are identified by stethascopes.

However, over the centuries it was the twin-snaked rod that came to be associated with medicine, the one that was the protector of gamblers, liars and thieves among others - not a healer or a protector of patients.

Death by Caduceus

Patients with iatrogenic injuries might find that appropriate once they enter the world made for them by their treatment providers afterwards. When afterwards they make sure that there is no record either of the events that caused the injuries or even of the iatrogenic injuries themselves, and so far as to spread lies to other treatment providers to make sure that no one to whom the injured patient goes for help will believe the patient who only seeks help, it can be that only something this macabre feels like a description of their reality. Only something this macabre makes them feel as though the conversation finally is about what they are living through.

It is too macabre for me even though I created it, even though I went through all of the above and more. However, it does feel like an accurate symbol of my reality.

A less macabre chalk outline can be seen at this link.