Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University
of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.
The Hippocratic Oath is one of the most valid of all ancient documents.
The United States Supreme Court referred to it in reaching the 1973 Roe v Wade decision. Medical students recite it at graduation.
Its definition of medical ethics endures because it represents the fundamental
truth that a sick person requires, and is entitled to have, trust in the caregiver.
"The Oath," writes Steven H. Miles, MD, in
this book, "simply puts the swearer's character on the line for human judgment
on whether the physician has honored the pledges to learn, to teach, to sustain
the development of medicine, to benefit the ill, and to shun injustice." This
ancient document attributed to Hippocrates helped medicine become a respected
profession. Perhaps we need to look at it in more detail to fathom the crisis
of trust that lurks in our profession. The oath is selfless and does not deal
with economics, institutions, or the politics of medicine. Instead, it clarifies
the relationship of doctor to patient and marks the turning point toward scientific
medicine and away from healing by superstition, magic, witchcraft, or pseudoreligious
Clark JM. Hippocratic Oath. JAMA. 2004;292(9):1083-1084. doi:10.1001/jama.292.9.1083