The classic oath of those who practice the medical arts. Parts are dated. After all, the oath was created by Hippocrates prior to his death in 370 BC. Some things have changed rather dramatically in 2000 years.

I swear by Apollo Physician, by Asclepius, by Hygieia, by Panacea, and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.

To hold my teacher in this art equal to my own parents; to make him partner in my livelihood; when he is in need of money to share mine with him; to consider his family as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they want to learn it, without fee or indenture; to impart precept, oral instruction, and all other instruction to my own sons, the sons of my teacher, and to indentured pupils who have taken the physician’s oath, but to nobody else.

I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion. But I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art. I will not use the knife, not even, verily, on sufferers from stone, but I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein.

Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free. And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession, as well as outside my profession in my intercourse with men, if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets.

Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I break it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.[6] – Translation by W.H.S. Jones.

The key elements of the oath are

  1. Service
  2. “Do no harm” and
  3. Confidentiality

and these elements are preserved to a large extent today.

It’s in the context of this oath that we find in the current COvid-19 epidemic that

  1. As of April 9th, 9,282 healthcare workers in the US have themselves had been infected with the disease, and
  2. Twenty-seven have died from it.(2)

While some older physician deaths have been featured in news reports, the average age of thise infected is 42.

Physicians liken the disease to Russian Roulette.(3) While the death rate from the disease may be low (some number under 3%), when servicing a patient, that percentage is largely irrelevant. In any transaction, you either win or die. In life, few people face choices that draconian. And it’s not really a choice. As a medical professional, you’ve made a commitment to serve all who come before you with whatever illness they bring.

Most people don’t sign up for service careers (medical, military, law enforcement) because of the risks they will face. Most aren’t thinking about those risks at all. There are long stretches of time when the most dangerous thing they face might be falling off a ladder. And then life gets “interesting” and true heroes emerge.

A true hero is not someone who thinks about doing what is right, but one that simply does what is right without thinking! -- Kevin Heath

Those who risk their lives in service to others are heroes.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath
  2. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/928770?nlid=135074_5322&src=WNL_mdplsnews_200417_mscpedit_wir&uac=153634BV&spon=17&impID=2350301&faf=1
  3. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/928574?nlid=135074_5322&src=WNL_mdplsnews_200417_mscpedit_wir&uac=153634BV&spon=17&impID=2350301&faf=1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.