Be a Hippocrate

[Hippocratic oath I]


As doctors we have this long tradition stretching, ostensibly, back into ancient history. We can lay claim to something old, something solid and historical. This is especially relevant in a world where ‘liquid modernity’ is the norm – the view of a modern society which no longer has any solid roots – the only thing constant is change. The laws change, morality changes, the goodies and baddies swap roles with every headline. What do we base our standards on? Evidence based medicine? But the evidence changes! Research is plagued  by scandal, shifted by bias, open to interpretation. What is gold standard one month is laughed at the next month. How about official guidelines? NICE, SIGN, GOLD, Colleges, Boards, Panels, American, European, British – if you’re not confused beforehand, you’ll be confused after reading them! How about popular medical consensus? Don’t make me laugh.

What we need is a unified, commonly agreed statement which medics can sign up to, that codifies the foundations of our profession. A fundamental document. Something ancient, with depth, with gravitas, respected and recognised; but simple, understood by laypeople as well as hoary professors.

How fortunate are we as a profession to have such a document available to us! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Hippocratic Oath!

Ancient; 3000 years worth of ancient. Recognised; namechecked by laypeople and other professions. Solemn; vows sworn under the threat of oath-breaking. Simple; well, more simple than some statements [Flesch reading ease score 45.4 (difficult)], but hey, it’s translated from Greek, a language that doesn’t really believe in short sentences.

It’s my intention to drill down into the Hippocratic oath over the next few weeks to justify its use, and in some small way to put an anchor in the stream of liquid modernity for doctors cast adrift.

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