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Reference: Hippocratic Oath

The following is one of many translations of the Physicians Oath, also known as the Hippocratic Oath.

“I swear by Apollo the Physician(or Healer) and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods and goddesses, the following Oath: to regard him who has taught me this art as my parents, and to share, as needed, my livelihood with him, and to look on this offspring as equal to mine and teach them this art[1] if they desire to learn[2]  And I will use regimens for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgment, and  never do harm // keep from harm[3]  And I will not give a drug that is deadly to anyone if asked [for it], nor will I suggest the way to such a counsel. And likewise I will not give a woman a destructive pessary[4]. And in a pure and holy way I will guard my life and my art. I will not cut (perform surgery) even for those suffering from ‘stones’ but will leave this to practitioners. Into every house I enter, I will go for the good of the ill, staying far from intentional injustice and seduction (and especially from sex) with women or with men, be they free or slaves. All that may come to my knowledge through my profession or in daily life, which should not be spread abroad, I will keep secret and never reveal[5]. If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I deviate from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

Sources: the framed wall art of a private physician, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath, and Steven Miles, in The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine.


[1]Note 1: Another word ‘techne’  (art and science) gives the oath a slightly different flavor. Source: Miles, Steven. The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine. xiv.

[2] Another translation includes the clause that  the offspring of those who taught the person making the Oath shall be taught without fee, and that teaching shall be limited to the physician’s own offspring as well as students who have both a written contract and sworn an oath by a medical convention, and no other.   Source: ibid.

[3] This distinction is subtle but very important… keeping from harm or injustice is an active role, where not doing harm is more passive.

[4] This is not a blanket injunction against abortive techniques, but against a specific one, known more likely to cause mortality among women. Others, widely known to physicians of the era and used without harm to the female patient, are not prohibited by the oath.

[5] Miles’ translation adds  “holding such things to be unutterable [sacred, not to be divulged]”.  Source: ibid.