Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 55-68

The Hippocratic Oath as Epideictic Rhetoric: Reanimating Medicine's Past for Its Future

  • Lisa KeränenAffiliated withDepartment of Communication and Rhetoric, University of Pittsburgh

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


As an example of Aristotle's genre of epideictic, or ceremonial rhetoric, the Hippocratic Oath has the capacity to persuade its self-addressing audience to appreciate the value of the medical profession by lending an element of stability to the shifting ethos of health care. However, the values it celebrates do not accurately capture communally shared norms about contemporary medical practice. Its multiple and sometimes conflicting versions, anachronistic references, and injunctions that resist translation into specific conduct diminish its longer-term persuasive force. Only when expunged of these elements and reconstructed using values over which there is widespread agreement can the Oath succeed in moving its audience from core values located in past discussions to principled action in the future.

Hippocratic Oath rhetoric epideictic rhetoric medical oaths