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The Hippocratic Oath

Posted Mar 08 2010 9:31am

Is it a Vanishing Oath?

The Hippocratic Oath (OrkoV) is the most widely known of Greek medical texts. It requires a new physician to swear that he/she will uphold a number of professional ethical standards. One of the best known prohibitions is, “to do no harm” (epi dhlhsei de kai adikihi eirxein or in Latin, primum non nocere).   Little is known about who wrote it or first used it, but it appears to be more strongly influenced by followers of Pythagoras than Hippocrates and is often estimated to have been written in the 4th century BC.

Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos (ca. 460 BC – ca. 370 BC) was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles (Classical Athens), and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is referred to as the Western father of medicine in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field as the founder of the Hippocratic School of medicine. This intellectual school revolutionized medicine in ancient Greece, establishing it as a discipline distinct from other fields that it had traditionally been associated with (notably theurgy and philosophy), thus making medicine a profession.

However, the achievements of the writers of the Corpus, the practitioners of Hippocratic medicine, and the actions of Hippocrates himself are often commingled; thus very little is known about what Hippocrates actually thought, wrote, and did. Nevertheless, Hippocrates is commonly portrayed as the paragon of the ancient physician. In particular, he is credited with greatly advancing the systematic study of clinical medicine, summing up the medical knowledge of previous schools, and prescribing practices for physicians through the Hippocratic Oath or Corpus and other works.

Asclepius (pronounced /æs ˈ kli ː piÉ™s/, Greek Ἀ σκληπιÏŒς Latin Aesculapius) is the god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek religion. Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are Hygieia (“Health”), Iaso (“Medicine”), Aceso (“Healing”), Aglæa/Ægle (“Healthy Glow”), and Panacea (“Universal Remedy”). The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today, although sometimes the caduceus, or staff with two snakes, is mistakenly used instead. He was associated with the Roman/Etruscan god Vediovis. He was one of Apollo’s servants.   Some legends hold that the family of Hippocrates was descended from Asculapius.

Over the centuries, the Hippocratic Oath has been rewritten often in order to suit the values of different cultures influenced by Greek medicine. Contrary to popular belief, the Hippocratic Oath is not required by most modern medical schools.   This is in our opinion unfortunate.

Hippocratic Oath

I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asclepius, and Hygieia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses as my witnesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this contract:

To hold him who taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents, to be a partner in life with him, and to fulfill his needs when required; to look upon his offspring as equals to my own siblings, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or contract; and that by the set rules, lectures, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to students bound by this contract and having sworn this Oath to the law of medicine, but to no others.

I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.

I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

In purity and according to divine law will I carry out my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, even upon those suffering from stones, but I will leave this to those who are trained in this craft.

Into whatever homes I go, I will enter them for the benefit of the sick, avoiding any voluntary act of impropriety or corruption, including the seduction of women or men, whether they are free men or slaves.

Whatever I see or hear in the lives of my patients, whether in connection with my professional practice or not, which ought not to be spoken of outside, I will keep secret, as considering all such things to be private.

So long as I maintain this Oath faithfully and without corruption, may it be granted to me to partake of life fully and the practice of my art, gaining the respect of all men for all time. However, should I transgress this Oath and violate it, may the opposite be my fate.

Translated by Michael North, National Library of Medicine, 2002 – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/greek/greek_oath.html

The Hippocratic Oath - ttp://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2771764/the_hippocratic_oath.html?single

Hippocrates – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocrates

Aesculapius – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asclepius

The Vanishing Oath (a film) – http://www.crashcartproductions.com/home

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