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The Hippocratic Oath is an oath traditionally taken by doctors swearing to ethically practice medicine. It is widely believed to have been written by Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, in Ionic Greek (late 5th century BC), or by one of his students, and is usually included in the Hippocratic Corpus. Classical scholar Ludwig Edelstein proposed that the oath was written by Pythagoreans, a theory that has been questioned due to the lack of evidence for a school of Pythagorean medicine. The phrase "first, do no harm" is often, incorrectly, attributed to the oath. Although mostly of historical and traditional value, the oath is considered a rite of passage for practitioners of medicine in some countries, although nowadays the modernized version of the text varies among the countries.

Oath text

Original

Original, translated into English:

Classic

Classic translation of the English:

A widely used modern version of the traditional oath was penned by Dr. Luis Lasagna, former Principal of the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences of Tufts Universitymarker.

In the 1970s, many American medical schools chose to abandon the Hippocratic Oath as part of graduation ceremonies, usually substituting a version modified to something considered more politically and medically correct, or an alternate pledge like the Oath of Maimonides.

The Hippocratic Oath has been updated by the Declaration of Geneva. In the United Kingdommarker, the General Medical Council provides clear modern guidance in the form of its Duties of a Doctor and Good Medical Practice statements.

-Modern Translation-

The Hippocratic Oath(Modern Version)

I SWEAR in the presence of the Almighty and before my family, my teachers and my peers that according to my ability and judgment I will keep this Oath and Stipulation.

TO RECKON all who have taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents and in the same spirit and dedication to impart a knowledge of the art of medicine to others. I will continue with diligence to keep abreast of advances in medicine. I will treat without exception all who seek my ministrations, so long as the treatment of others is not compromised thereby, and I will seek the counsel of particularly skilled physicians where indicated for the benefit of my patient.

I WILL FOLLOW that method of treatment which according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patient and abstain from whatever is harmful or mischievous. I will neither prescribe nor administer a lethal dose of medicine to any patient even if asked nor counsel any such thing nor perform the utmost respect for every human life from fertilization to natural death and reject abortion that deliberately takes a unique human life.

WITH PURITY, HOLINESS AND BENEFICENCE I will pass my life and practice my art. Except for the prudent correction of an imminent danger, I will neither treat any patient nor carry out any research on any human being without the valid informed consent of the subject or the appropriate legal protector thereof, understanding that research must have as its purpose the furtherance of the health of that individual. Into whatever patient setting I enter, I will go for the benefit of the sick and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief or corruption and further from the seduction of any patient.

WHATEVER IN CONNECTION with my professional practice or not in connection with it I may see or hear in the lives of my patients which ought not be spoken abroad, I will not divulge, reckoning that all such should be kept secret.

WHILE I CONTINUE to keep this Oath unviolated may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art and science of medicine with the blessing of the Almighty and respected by my peers and society, but should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse by my lot.

Modern relevance

The original text of the Hippocratic Oath is usually interpreted as one of the first statements of a moral of conduct to be used by physicians, assuming the respect for all human life, even unborn. Most Christian tradition interprets the original Hippocratic Oath as a condemnation of abortion and infanticide.

According to Margaret Mead : "For the first time in our tradition there was a complete separation between killing and curing. Throughout the primitive world, the doctor and the sorcerer tended to be the same person. He with the power to kill had power to cure, including specially the undoing of his own killing activities. He who had the power to cure would necessarily also be able to kill... With the Greeks the distinction was made clear. One profession, the followers of Asclepius, were to be dedicated completely to life under all circumstances, regardless of rank, age or intellect – the life of a slave, the life of the Emperor, the life of a foreign man, the life of a defective child..." [6434]



Derivations of the oath have been modified over the years in various countries. In the USA, most Medicine schools administer some form of oath. It has been suggested that a similar oath should be undertaken by scientists, a Hippocratic Oath for Scientists.

Modern challenged parts of the oath:
  1. To teach medicine to the sons of my teacher. In the past, medical schools gave preferential consideration to the children of physicians.
     
  2. To practice and prescribe to the best of my ability for the good of my patients, and to try to avoid harming them. This beneficial intention is the purpose of the physician. However, this item is still invoked in the modern discussions of euthanasia.

     
  3. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan. Physician organizations in most countries have strongly denounced physician participation in legal executions. However, in a small number of cases, most notably the U.S. states of Oregonmarker, Washingtonmarker, Montanamarker, and in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a doctor can prescribe euthanasia with the patient's consent.

     
  4. Similarly, I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion. Since the legalization of abortion in many countries, the inclusion of the anti-abortion sentence of the Hippocratic oath has been a source of contention.

     
  5. To avoid violating the morals of my community. Many licensing agencies will revoke a physician's license for offending the morals of the community ("moral turpitude").

     
  6. I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art. The "stones" referred to are kidney stones or bladder stones, removal of which was judged too menial for physicians, and therefore was left for barbers (the forerunners of modern surgeons). Surgery was not recognized as a specialty at that time. This sentence is now interpreted as acknowledging that it is impossible for any single physician to maintain expertise in all areas. It also highlights the different historical origins of the surgeon and the physician.

     
  7. To keep the good of the patient as the highest priority. There may be other conflicting 'good purposes,' such as community welfare, conserving economic resources, supporting the criminal justice system, or simply making money for the physician or his employer that provide recurring challenges to physicians.
     


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