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|Title: ||Do no harm: is it time to rethink the Hippocratic Oath?|
|Authors: ||Walton, Merrilyn|
|Issue Date: ||2014|
|Citation: ||Walton M, Kerridge I. Do no harm: is it time to rethink the Hippocratic Oath? Med Educ. 2014;48(1):17-27|
The 1964 revision of the Hippocratic Oath addressed the disconnection in language and context between the classical doctrine and 20th century medicine. Now, 50 years later, we argue that any revision of the Oath must be responsive to the significant social, technical and political changes that have occurred in health care.
The context for the Hippocratic Oath
This paper examines the ways in which health care and the health professions have changed over the last half-century and describes a range of environmental and contextual features that expose the inadequacies of the 1964 Oath in the worlds of today and the future. We note the constancy of the doctor–patient dyad in contemporary ethical codes and consider from the perspective of patient safety those aspects of care that might fall short of the optimum if the focus on the doctor is retained. We ask whether there is any merit in maintaining a focus on the ethics or professionalism of doctors, or whether more of our attention should be directed towards the ethics of health care itself.
Patient safety is widely acknowledged as a major health issue. Being open about the interdependency of doctors, the complex socio-political nature of health care, and the inevitability of errors and adverse events need not challenge the authority of the doctor. Rather, openness about both the ways in which medicine has changed and the harms that doctors may (inadvertently) cause might afford medicine the opportunity to build a different relationship with patients (and with society more broadly), that recognises complexity, human fallibility and the uncertainty of medicine.
This article has been written in response to the following line from Lasagna's modernisation of the Hippocratic Oath : ‘I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:’|
|Type of Work: ||Article|
|Type of Publication: ||Post-print|
|Appears in Collections:||Research Papers and Publications. Sydney Health Ethics|
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