European Spine Journal

, Volume 27, Issue 7, pp 1491–1500 | Cite as

The relevance of the Hippocratic Oath to the ethical and moral values of contemporary medicine. Part II: interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath—today’s perspective

  • Helen AskitopoulouEmail author
  • Antonis N. Vgontzas


This is the second part of a paper on the relevance and significance of the Hippocratic Oath to modern medical ethical and moral values with the aim at answering questions on controversial issues related to the Oath. Part I argued that the general attributes and ethical values of the Oath are relevant to the modern world. Part II attempts to elucidate the interpretation of the specific injunctions of the Oath from today’s perspective in relation to ethical values concerning the duties of physicians to patients and society. The objective is to prove that the Oath has established the general context of medical ethics of the physician–patient relationship, which reflects long-lasting moral values that still define the medical profession. The Oath has exemplified the fundamental modern ethical principles of beneficence, non-maleficence and confidentiality. Its foremost message focuses on patients’ best interests and not on the prohibition of surgery, euthanasia or abortion, as is generally believed. Furthermore, the Oath as a code of professional identity has had a powerful impact on modem judicial opinions regarding medical ethics. In a lot of ways, it is as relevant of the values of contemporary medicine as it was for ancient medicine.

Graphical abstract

These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.


Hippocrates Oath Medical ethics Ancient Greek medicine Law 



The authors wish to express their wholehearted sincere thanks and appreciation to Ms Iliana Antonakopoulou and Professor Eva Kalpourtzi for their valuable and constructive comments, and their continuous help and support with editing the present manuscript. They also wish to thank Mrs Pinelopi Stefanaki for her professional processing of the figures of this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PPTX 18643 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 1099 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (PDF 1030 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor Emeritus of Anaesthesiology, School of MedicineUniversity of CreteHeraklionGreece
  2. 2.Supreme CourtAthensGreece

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