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Should the Hippocratic oath be scrapped?

hippocratic oathDoctors in Italy are recommending that the Hippocratic oath many doctors take upon graduation should be scrapped as it’s out-of-date.

Senior doctors in Italy have argued that the oath which promises to keep the sick ‘from harm or injustice’ is outdated as it also forbids abortion and euthanasia.

Extracts from the oath state: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.”

Whilst euthanasia is illegal in Italy, abortion was made legal in 1978 and as such doctors are already working in contradiction to the oath.

Giorgio Ianetti, a professor of surgery at Rome University believes such statements in the oath are evidence that it should be scrapped or else given a radical makeover. He told a medical conference in Rome: “There are passages which are no longer relevant to our times and which newly qualified doctors know in advance they will not be able to respect.”

Some university professors admitted that they declined to take the oath whilst others reported that medical students have also expressed their disagreement with it.

The oath was written in the 4th century BC by Hippocrates who is widely recognised as the father of medicine. But a modernised version has since been written which is used in most Western medical schools.

Despite the campaign some doctors are still enthusiastic about the original oath. Luigi Frati, head of surgery at Rome University, argued that it “reminds new doctors of certain fundamental concepts . . . they feel they belong to a scientific community with a long tradition”.

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