The Hippocratic Oath: Still relevant after 2,400 years?

Medical education
For many doctors the 2,400-year-old Hippocratic Oath is still relevant to their practice.

Whether the Hippocratic Oath is still relevant to those who practice modern medicine depends on who you ask.

Some doctors say it’s time to retire the oath, traditionally recited as medical school tradition. Others say it still rings true.

To find out how doctors felt, Medscape asked medical school students and practicing physicians for their opinions in an online poll that got more than 2,600 responses.

Most doctors (81%) said they found the Hippocratic Oath very or somewhat meaningful, according to the poll. A majority (62%) believed that the traditional oath should be preserved, but 28% said it should be revised or replaced, while 9% said it should be dropped.

Some medical schools use an alternative oath and as a new tradition at some, including Harvard Medical School, each class of students writes its own oath, the report said. But for many doctors, the oath—even though it invokes Greek gods and goddesses, addresses only male doctors and forbids abortion and assisted suicide—still sets a standard for today’s physicians.

"When you are a young doctor, usually you laugh about taking an oath in the name of long forgotten Greek gods," a vascular surgeon commented to Medscape. "As years go by and you face complicated ethical cases, the oath begins to make more and more sense.”

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