Do we need the Hippocratic oath?
The classic version is outdated, but we still need an ethical declaration on graduation
The tradition of making an ethical and professional declaration on graduation from medical school is currently a popular one. Through a formal statement, the newly qualified doctor makes a commitment to behave in a professional and ethical manner, to consider the wellbeing of their patients, and above all, to work to improve their patients’ health. Oath taking now takes place in half of UK medical schools, in nearly all US schools, and in about half of schools in Australia.12
The custom of physicians taking an oath to uphold an ethical code is old and widespread: the oath of the Hindu physician (1400s BC); “Advice to a physician” (Persia, 900s); and the 17 rules of Enjuin (Japan, 1500s) are just three examples.3 In the West the best known is the Hippocratic oath (box 1), composed around 410 BC and the inspiration or foundation for most of the oaths used today,