The Hippocratic Oath: Classic vs. Modern

One of the most interesting things to me is the differences between the modern and classic Hippocratic Oaths. One of the first things that I notice different in the Oaths is use of religion in the Classic Oath and it is omitted in the modern version. The modern version credits science in its Oath and doesn’t mention anything religious. The difference in the times is very evident when comparing the context of these writings just when reading the two. For example the classic oath when referring to doctors they continuously says “him”. Today, that would be seen as sexist and offensive to many women. As the classic oath continued and stated “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.” The first part of the oath says that doctors cannot use euthanasia as well as be involved in performing abortions. The modern oath shows the extended freedoms given to the patient as well as the responsibility granted to the doctor. The modern day oath was also written less boldly and in a much more broad politically correct sense. For example not specifically saying refrain from sexual relations with patients but, respect patients body soul and mind. I believe after reading and comparing the two oaths that because of the freedoms and intermingling of different cultures in America it was necessary to redo the oath.

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One Response to “The Hippocratic Oath: Classic vs. Modern”

  1. Maureen Tuthill Says:

    The difference in the way language is used in the two oaths reveals something about the times in which they were written. You say that the modern Hippocratic oath is written “less boldly” than the original. I wonder if doctors had more cultural authority in the 5th century B.C., and therefore, they could get away with that bolder tone. Something seems missing or watered down in the new oath–as you say, it has that “politically correct” feel to it. You also make a good point about the newer oath having to apply to a wider range of cultures. The Hippocratic doctors were writing for Greeks only, so perhaps they could be more straightforward in what they said. This straightfowardness might come off as narrow and insensitive today.

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