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


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.

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    Translation by the authors of the Greek text: “ών τοίς θεοίς άνθρωπος εύχεται τυχείν της ευθανασίας κρείττον ουδέν εύχεται”.


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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.

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Correspondence to Helen Askitopoulou.

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Askitopoulou, H., Vgontzas, A.N. 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. Eur Spine J 27, 1491–1500 (2018).

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  • Hippocrates
  • Oath
  • Medical ethics
  • Ancient Greek medicine
  • Law