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Resurgence of interest in medical oaths and codes of conduct

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 06 June 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1749

A universal code of conduct is difficult to develop

  1. H Millard Prter, Eleanor Peel professor of geriatric medicine
  1. Division of Geriatric Medicine, St George's Hospital School of Medicine, London SW17 0RE
  2. 5 Woodville Road, Altrincham, Cheshire WA14 2AN
  3. 12 Baroncroft Road, Woolton, Liverpool L25 6EH

    EDITOR— By missing out the first line of the Hippocratic Code, Hurwitz and Richardson have altered the meaning,1 which begins: “;I swear by Apollo the physician, by Aesculapius, Hygeia and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and judgement the following oath.” Clearly, 2500 years ago the Greeks thought that judgment of success was divine as well as secular.

    In developing a universal code there is the problem of: “How to develop an all embracing ethical code of practice if one makes the code relative to local circumstances?”1The draft revision of the Hippocratic Oath states: “Where abortion is permitted, I agree that it should take place only within an ethical and legal framework.” Will the Dutch Medical Association want to include euthanasia?

    The Gordian knot concerns the relation between morals based on ideas of community, values, and the worth of individuals, and the law based …

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