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Why the Hippocratic ideals are dead

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 15 June 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1463
  1. Imre Loefler (, surgeon
  1. Nairobi, Kenya

    Medical ethics in Western medicine have traditionally concerned six major principles, all of which are in the Hippocratic oath: reverence for our teachers and consideration towards our colleagues; the command “first, do no harm”; absolute regard for life; restriction to field of expertise; abuse of privilege; and respect for privacy. In addition Hippocratic medicine is pious, serene, and centres solely on the individual.

    Modern medicine lacks piety and serenity

    Contemporary medicine places much less emphasis on reverence for the teachers, if for no other reason than because a doctor has limited exposure to his or her teachers: there are too many of them. Obligations towards the family of the deceased teacher, if they exist at all outside the sphere of emotion, are rarely financial.

    Consideration towards colleagues is still an important part of medical ethics, although the practice of treating colleagues and their families for free has decreased greatly. The bad mouthing of colleagues, …

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