Hippocratic Oath: A Universal Code Of Ethics

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In a discussion about the Hippocratic Oath (“the Oath”), we consider the opposing perspectives presented by Robert Veatch in The Basics of Bioethics and Daniel Sokol, a medical ethicist who authored the BBC article, A guide to the Hippocratic oath. In this essay, we answer the question of whether the Oath is relevant as a universal code of ethics for today’s physicians. I argue that the Hippocratic Oath does not appear to be relevant to modern medical practice because 1) its philosophical basis is limited to its historical context and 2) it contains problematic language; however, the Oath does contain statements about the duty of a physician to a patient that can create the basis through which to construct a modern, relevant code of ethics …show more content…
Further, when it is explicit, it is often affirmative in those areas that are either 1) obsolete or 2) do not belong in a general code for physicians because it is not universally agreed upon. Let’s start by looking at what the Oath mentions directly. When taken literally it states that a physician must give money to his teacher when it is needed and must withhold medical knowledge to those who are not students. These are no longer obligations that physicians must fulfill today, making them obsolete commitments. Also, when taken literally, without the historical context that Sokol provided, it appears the Oath makes a statement forbidding abortions, surgery by all physicians, and euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide. As I stated previously, these issues do not have a universal moral conclusion (or in the case of surgery, there are a subset of physicians that practice it), so it makes it problematic in an Oath that should contain universal ethical values for physicians. Now, let’s consider what is missing in the oath. Veatch argues that what is lacking is a statement about patient rights and that these rights are an important element of a physician’s role today. In order for the Hippocratic Oath, as it is written, to be relevant in today’s world, one must believe that the rules and statements within it do not apply rigidly; this appears to be Sokol’s belief. However, if we are not using situationalism to justify the relevancy of the Oath, then the Oath would need to be rewritten to emphasize what is important and what can be actually considered a physician’s role today to maintain significance in modern times. It would need to be rewritten because it is so explicit in details that do not apply today and seem to only imply and provide hints of relevant moral

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