Sunday, September 07, 2014

A Modern Hippocratic Oath

As we further consider the physician development and training issues in our society, it is illustrative to turn to the oath taken by doctors in training as they begin their careers.  Everyone knows of the Hippocratic Oath and its key theme--"Do no harm"--but there is a modern version of the doctors' oath that might be more reflective of current societal needs.

I learned of it after the Tufts University School of Medicine Class of 2018 White Coat Ceremony.  The medical students recited the oath during the ceremony, and then we asked our friend Katherine Spencer (seen above) to repeat it to us at a post-ceremony celebration.  Here it is:

A Modern Hippocratic Oath by Dr. Louis Lasagna

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow;

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body, as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection hereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.


Henry said...

I would also note that, often forgotten, the first item in that oath (and the original Hippocratic oath) is to TEACH.

Neville Sarkari MD, FACP said...

This new oath is the one we took at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in 1993.

Matt Katz, MD said...

Interesting idea, well done. Not sure I would prefer it to the Oath of Maimonides. I also agree that teaching is an integral part of medicine. Doctor = teacher in Latin. I would also try to make it current; "I know not" sounds like an attempt to make it older when it's supposed to be contemporary. Thanks for sharing.

Josh said...

It seems to elevate medical executions and/or euthanasia to quite the noble "responsibility". It's disappointing that this oath couldn't simply avoid poking into that arena.