Results of the Research
According to an article by Peter Tyson, written for and submitted to NOVA, a PBS subsidiary, The
Hippocratic Oath has seen a dramatic rise in popularity over the years. The oath has grown from just "24
percent of U.S. medical schools administering the oath in 1928 to nearly 100 percent today." The article
continues, however, by stating that core tenets once held in the highest regard in the original text
compiled by Hippocrates are no longer present in more modern versions of the oath. Some examples of
guidelines left on the cutting room floor include the prohibition of euthanasia, and the forbiddance of
sexual relationships with patients. Calls for free teaching of medicine and treatment to the newer
generation are also not often followed, and the wish for doctors and surgeons to remain divorced is
hardly considered in modern medical facilities.
Tyson continues his article by levying various positions those in different fields of medicine take
regarding the prevalence of the oath in modern medical discussions. Some cite "huge scientific,
economic, political, and social changes" as proof enough that the oath is outdated, while others feel
that in a growing "environment of increasing medical specialization," sharing one oath across each field
is a questionable decision.
Many physicians claim that the Hippocratic Oath, though now practically known throughout the western
world, fails to address differing beliefs among the multitude of religions around the world, claiming
that the pagan beliefs deeply rooted in the document often clash with the beliefs held by people of
other religions, specifically citing Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam among those that differ wildly from
the religion held by Greeks at the time.
Another article, by Serbian author Artur Bjelica, states in regards to the oath, "opinions about its
relevance range from warm approval to total disapproval." According to Bjelica, there are nearly "half a
million hits" found when searching for the words Hippocratic Oath on Google. With a
centuries-old document such as the oath, there are bound to be hundreds of articles written by scholars
and thinkers all picking apart and analyzing a work of literature so ingrained into our study of ethics
and medicine. To add to the sheer mass of academic work directed at one set of guides, the author also
points out the growing number of posts made on social media platforms.
Bjelica goes on to state that the Hippocratic Oath has already been modified to fit the cultures of
various countries and groups around the world, being modified, appended, and rewritten to fit the
knowledge gained since the writing of the original document, but also to fit the beliefs, practices, and
sensibilities of any given culture.
He quotes the opinions of some physicians regarding the oath, and found that many still see it as
historically important, with one stating that for the first time in the history of medical literature,
"there was a complete separation between killing and curing." Others have gone on to argue that any
physician is free to choose their own oath or set of guidelines to follow them throughout their time of
practicing medicine that more closely aligns to the beliefs they hold.
In an effort to modernize the Hippocratic Oath, Bjelica notes that changes have already been
made to the document, including the removal of calling upon various gods and goddesses of Greek lore are
witness to your pledge, as well as shortening the section regarding the respect one should have for
seniors in the field and how a physician should teach their knowledge to former pupils. He acknowledges
that this change is most likely due to the fact that—according to Hippocrates' oath—a
physician should be readily available to teach their former instructor's heirs in a physician's ways,
and in the time period in which this work was written, the male offspring would more often than not
inherit this position. Bjelica argues that these sections of the oath have been trimmed due to them no
longer being "acceptable nor compliant with reality."
A final article written by Fabrice Jotterand weighs in with its own opinions regarding the relevance of
the Hippocratic Oath. In her paper published by Taylor & Francis, she argues that "the
resources for a better understanding of medical professionalism lie not in the Hippocratic Oath,
tradition, or ethos in and of themselves." Rather, she believes that the path to better make clear these
resources "must be found in a philosophy of medicine that explores the values internal to medicine, thus
providing a medical-moral philosophy so as to be able to resist the deformation of medical
It can be considered that the changes in public opinion regarding the Hippocratic Oath can be derived
from advancements in technology and scientific achievement, but perhaps more importantly, the
development and growing specificity of ethics as a discipline. No longer do academics believe one code
of ethics is sufficient in dealing with the complexities of every field of work or study, and instead
nuanced guidelines should be followed depending on the context of the situation a person finds