Intended for healthcare professionals


Medical oaths and declarations

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 22 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1440

A declaration marks an explicit commitment to ethical behaviour

  1. Kaji Sritharan (,
  2. Georgina Russell,
  3. Zoe Fritz,
  4. Davina Wong,
  5. Matthew Rollin,
  6. Jake Dunning,
  7. Philip Morgan,
  8. Catherine Sheehan the Imperial College School of Medicine graduating year of 2001;

    The newly qualified doctors of Imperial College School of Medicine recently adopted a ceremony in which they declare their commitment to assume the responsibilities and obligations of the medical profession. The decision to create a declaration ceremony was widely supported by the final year students and it reflects a recent resurgence in interest in medical oaths in the United Kingdom. 1 2

    Some 98% of American 1 3 and nearly 50% of British medical students 1 4 swear some kind of oath, either on entry to medical school5 or at graduation.4 One reason why oaths are more common in America may be that American children are brought up to swear their allegiance to the flag, so the concept of affirming their beliefs is less alien than to British students.

    Oaths are neither a universal endeavour 3 4 nor a legal obligation, and they cannot guarantee morality. So why should doctors take an oath at all? In 1992 a BMA working party found that affirmation may strengthen a doctor's resolve to behave with integrity in extreme circumstances. This group recommended that …

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