THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH
Hippocrates is most remembered today for his famous Oath, which physicians take before beginning the practice of medicine. In writing his Oath, Hippocrates set high ethical standards for future physicians to follow. Needless to say, compliance, both then and now, has been considerably less than perfect.
Certain provisions of the Oath, such as that protecting doctor - patient confidentiality and that forbidding sexual involvement or meddling in the lives of patients, are generally accepted without question. But after that, we start to get into the grey areas.
In forbidding abortion, Hippocrates was clearly in favor of the Right to Life. In forbidding the use or suggestion of poisons or deadly drugs, Hippocrates comes out against euthanasia.
One key ethical principle of Hippocrates is Primum non nocere, or, "First, do no harm." But many pharmaceutical drugs used for commmon ailments today have harmful negative side effects which traditional, natural medicines and treatments do not have.
One little-known provision of the Oath is that the doctor should offer to teach any male offspring or relatives of his teacher the art of medicine, free of charge. But seriously - in today's high-pressured medical marketplace, where time is money, how many doctors can actually do that, when they don't even have the time to talk to their own patients?
But still, I think Hippocrates was right to set such high ethical standards in his Oath. Ever conscious of his responsibility and personal example to future generations of physicians, he felt it better to set the bar high than to set it too low.
I swear by Apollo the Physician, and by Asclepius and Hygeia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill, according to my ability and judgement this oath and this covenant:
To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art, if they desire to learn it, without fee and covenant, to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and the sons of him who has instructed me and to his pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but to noone else.
I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgement; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly, I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness will I guard my life and my art.
I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from the stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.
Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief, and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.
What I may see or hear in the course of treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.
If I fulfill this Oath, and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy my life and my art, being honored with fame among all men, and at all times. If I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.
Ancient Healing: Unlocking the Mysteries of Health and Healing through the Ages
by Kevin V. Ergil et al Copyright 1997 by Publications International, Ltd.