Oaths for Physicians -- Necessary Protection or Elaborate Hoax?

Erich H. Loewy, MD

In This Article

Weill Cornell Medical College's Hippocratic Oath:


I do solemnly vow, to that which I value and hold most dear: That I will honor the Profession of medicine, be just and generous to its members, and help sustain them in their service to humanity; That just as I have learned from those who preceded me, so will I instruct those who follow me in the science and the art of medicine; That I will recognize the limits of my knowledge and pursue lifelong learning to better care for the sick and to prevent illness; That I will seek the counsel of others when they are more expert so as to fulfill my obligation to those who are entrusted to my care; That I will not withdraw from my patients in their time of need [italics mine]; That I will lead my life and practice my art with integrity and honor, using my power wisely; That whatsoever I shall see or hear of the lives of my patients that is not fitting to be spoken, I will keep in confidence; That into whatever house I shall enter, it shall be for the good of the sick; That I will maintain this sacred trust, holding myself far aloof from wrong, from corrupting, from the tempting of others to vice; That above all else I will serve the highest interests of my patients through the practice of my science and my art; That I will be an advocate for patients in need and strive for justice in the care of the sick [italics mine]. I now turn to my calling, promising to preserve its finest traditions, with the reward of a long experience in the joy of healing. I make this vow freely and upon my honor.[8]

The AMA Code of Ethics,[9] although not an oath but a statement of ethical conduct, is accepted by physicians as a legitimate statement of duties of behavior to which all physicians should subscribe. The AMA statement is not an oath but a model, which those belonging to the AMA (or even those not belonging) accept as a fair statement of behavior and duties of all physicians. It does not differ essentially from what is considered proper behavior in other Western democracies:


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