The Hippocratic Oath and the Declaration of Geneva: legitimisation attempts of professional conduct

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 23 (1):81-86 (2020)
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Abstract

The Hippocratic Oath and the Declaration of Geneva of the World Medical Association are compared in terms of content and origin. Their relevance for current medical practice is investigated. The status which is ascribed to these documents will be shown and the status which they can reasonably claim to have will be explored. Arguments in favor of the Hippocratic Oath that rely on historical stability or historical origin are being examined. It is demonstrated that they get caught up in paradoxes. Should doctors swear the Hippocratic Oath or the Declaration of Geneva? The Hippocratic Oath is a remarkable historic document, which contains important elements still relevant for medical ethics today. Its interpretation as a timeless, still valid medical code is unfounded. The historical arguments, that should justify its validity, are untenable. The Declaration of Geneva, and not the Hippocratic Oath, can legitimately claim to come close to representing the most important principles of professional medical conduct in today’s globalised world.

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