The 2,500-year-old Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest documents in the history of medicine. The Declaration of Geneva was derived from the original Hippocratic Oath with changes made post-World War II following ethical concerns. It serves as a guideline for physicians worldwide and acts as a moral code in terms of providing the best healthcare for patients.

Doctors have since been debating whether the newly adopted Hippocratic Oath is still relevant in the current practice.

"When you are a young doctor, usually you laugh about taking an oath in the name of long forgotten Greek gods," a vascular surgeon wrote to Medscape. "As years go by, and you face complicated ethical cases, the oath begins to make more and more sense. Sometimes, it can be a burden, but staying true to your pledge makes you finally realise that the Hippocratic Oath is a true jewel of humanity – as true and modern now as when it was first written," the vascular surgeon pointed out in a letter written to the leading medical news site, in response to a poll entitled “Is It Time to Retire the Hippocratic Oath?

In many countries, it is part of the code of medical ethics while in some it is a legally binding contract. A few countries are not even using it at all while some adapt the oath only to a certain extent.

New amendments to the Hippocratic oath

The newly adopted version of the declaration—now officially identified as ‘The Physician’s Pledge’—captures several key changes and additions:

i) respecting the autonomy and dignity of the patient;
ii) sharing medical knowledge for the benefit of the patient and the advancement of healthcare;
iii) attend to their own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.

The full text of the 2017 pledge now reads as:


I SOLEMNLY PLEDGE to dedicate my life to the service of humanity;

THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF MY PATIENT will be my first consideration;

I WILL RESPECT the autonomy and dignity of my patient;

I WILL MAINTAIN the utmost respect for human life;

I WILL NOT PERMIT considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing, or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;

I WILL RESPECT the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;

I WILL PRACTISE my profession with conscience and dignity and in accordance with good medical practice;

I WILL FOSTER the honour and noble traditions of the medical profession;

I WILL GIVE to my teachers, colleagues, and students the respect and gratitude that is their due;

I WILL SHARE my medical knowledge for the benefit of the patient and the advancement of healthcare;

I WILL ATTEND TO my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard;

I WILL NOT USE my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;

I MAKE THESE PROMISES solemnly, freely, and upon my honour.

Attending to doctor’s own health

Dr Sam Hazledine from Queenstown, New Zealand made history by petitioning for the amendment last year, where he obtained 4,500 signatures to include a clause for doctors to focus on their own health as well as of their patients.

I WILL ATTEND TO my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard” echoes the new clause included in the new pledge.

"Doctors haven't been taking care of their own health because we've been operating under the paradigm that we should sacrifice ourselves to look after our patients,” expressed Hazledine.

Previously, there has been no provision for doctors to prioritise or focus on their own health to better provide patient care. This move for change in the oath is in light of the alarming figures from a large US study, revealing 87% of doctors were stressed or suffering from burnout – which in turn contributes to an increase in medical errors.

“A change in the declaration will be the official acknowledgement doctors need,” remarked Hazledine.

With the new revision, the pledge is expected to be a global ethical code for doctors.

“The life of physicians today is completely different than what it was in 1948, when the original Declaration of Geneva was adopted. Since then, the Declaration has become a core document of medical ethics and a modern version of the 2,500-year old Hippocratic Oath. We hope that the Declaration approved today will be used by all physicians around the world to strengthen the profession’s determination to maintain the highest standard of health care for patients,” expressed Dr Yoshitake Yokokura, WMA President. MIMS

Read more:

Hypocrite VS Hippocratic Oath
A doctor’s dilemma: clash between duty and personal values
Hippocrates: The father of modern medicine