Dr. Panteleon has practiced medicine for more than forty years in a town where his patients rarely became ill. One day, a girl arrives at his office requesting a gynecological examination. The doctor performs a silent and mechanical pelvic exam. The girl’s stepfather wants the physician to certify that the young woman is a virgin and able to have children. The stepfather has given her an ultimatum. She must marry either the town butcher or Dr. Panteleon. She hates the butcher and the doctor will not marry her.

The girl asks for help. The stepfather suffers from chronic constipation and hemorrhoids. Although critical of Dr. Panteleon’s treatment of his problem, the stepfather nevertheless requests additional medicated suppositories. Before embarking on a house call to meet with the lazy man and discuss the young woman’s plight, Dr. Panteleon prepares six special suppositories laced with a poison that will make constipation the least of the stepfather’s problems.


Medical Ethics is one of nineteen connected stories that chronicle life in an isolated Greek village threatened with extermination. Elsewhere in this collection of short stories, we learn more about the character of Dr. Panteleon. At one time he aspired to be an anesthesiologist but never actually graduated from medical school. In the eccentric village where he practices medicine, patients either do not know or perhaps don’t really care that he does not possess a medical degree.

The doctor once plotted to kill a cruel landowner in revenge for the hideous acts the wealthy man committed on the townspeople. It seems that Dr. Panteleon has a strong appreciation for justice and sometimes believes he is the only man capable of delivering it. This story raises concerns about the moral authority and obligations of physicians as well as posing questions about the physician-patient relationship and ethics.

For example, if no one really cares to know the truth, is lying still wrong? Must we always forgive those individuals who frequently or continually perpetrate small crimes and evil? Dr. Panteleon seems trapped in a world that is unpredictable, frail, and unfair. He struggles to alleviate misery. When that is not entirely possible, his prescription for those who inflict the suffering is simple--retribution.

Primary Source

Little Infamies


Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Place Published

New York



Page Count