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Observations Ethics Man

“First do no harm” revisited

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 25 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6426

Rapid Response:

Re: “First do no harm” revisited

I am disappointed that Sokol failed to accurately trace the origin of the phrase 'first do no harm'. Contrary to Sokol's (incorrect) belief, the phrase appears in the Hippocratic Corpus, specifically in Epidemics, book I, sect. XI: 'The physician must... have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm'. Furthermore, it is a logical fallacy to conclude that the phrase has Latin origins because Hippocrates wrote in Greek and not Latin. The original Greek quote was adopted centuries later by the Romans in the form of 'primum non nocere'.

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 December 2013
Anna Trakoli
Consultant in Occupational Medicine
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Workplace Health and Wellbeing Centre, Field House, Bradford Royal Infirmary, Duckworth Lane, Bradford, DB9 6RJ