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From the Hippocratic Oath to the Declaration of Geneva

Sept. 6, 2021

(Minghui.org) Hippocrates, a physician in ancient Greece, lived from the 5th to the 4th century B.C. Highly skilled in medicine and renowned for his medical ethics, he is considered the founder of Western medicine.

According to historians, the Hippocratic Oath was widely adopted over the centuries. In 1804, for example, the Montpellier School of Medicine in France used the full text of the Hippocratic Oath as the oath for its graduates.

The Oath mentions Asclepius, who was the god of medicine in Greek mythology. In fact, he was said to be the son of Apollo and have had several daughters including Hygieia (“Hygiene,” the goddess of cleanliness), Iaso (the goddess of recuperation from illness), Aceso (the goddess of the healing process), Panacea (the goddess of universal remedy), and others.

In the modern era, many colleges and universities, including those in the United States, use modified versions of the Hippocratic Oath in their graduation ceremonies when awarding “Doctor of Medicine” degrees.

The Hippocratic Oath

“I swear by Apollo Healer, 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 Healer’s oath, but to nobody else.

“I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment, and I will do no harm or injustice to them. 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.”

Profound Meaning

The Hippocratic Oath is not long, but its implications are profound.

Faith in the Divine

Across cultures, it is generally believed that human beings were created by the divine. For mankind to survive and multiply, and at the same time to improve human life, there are many professions including medicine. In particular, the profession of medicine is special. A human being can fall ill at any time, but only when one has a healthy body can one contribute to society and participate in social activities. That is why medicine has traditionally been regarded as a noble profession.

To be a doctor, one must have a righteous, heartfelt faith that truly respects life. The person must devote himself to medicine and develop compassion for his or her patients. Only this way can one be inspired and empowered by the divine as one treats patients, ensuring that the patients recover soon. The process is also one of cultivating one’s heart, in which one can identify improper thoughts and remove them.

That is to say, in ancient times, true great medical doctors were cultivators, whether they were in the East or the West. Practicing medicine was largely a means of their cultivation, and the foundation of cultivation was their righteous faith in the divine. Hippocrates himself, like ancient Chinese physicians such as Hua Tuo, Bian Que, and others, witnessed many miracles in the process of treating illnesses.

Code of Conduct

This oath of Hippocrates, which governs the conduct of physicians in the practice of medicine, can be seen as rules ordained by the divine for physicians, and it was passed down for thousands of years. From this, we can see that the divine requirements for the morality and integrity of those engaged in this profession are very high, unlike in other professions. After all, this oath was produced in ancient times when righteous faith in the divine was strong, in both the East and the West.

At the end of the oath, it says, “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.”

Believers in the divine know that oath is not to be taken lightly. They swear with great solemnity and seriousness, knowing that the oath is truly effective.

Modern Day Modifications

This Hippocratic Oath is rather simple. In contrast, nowadays the norms and systems and even laws for doctors in medical schools and hospitals, both East and West, are many times more complicated and cumbersome. And there are all kinds of medical malpractice suits and doctor-patient disputes, many more than in the past. Why is that?

It could be that, as people focus more on technology, they have deviated from ethical values. In other words, their faith in the divine has become weaker and weaker. It is especially the case in mainland China, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has nearly destroyed traditional values, replacing them with atheism and the Party culture of class struggle, hatred, and lies.

The situation in the West is also alarming. Today, many medical schools have replaced the Hippocratic Oath with words more suitable for the current situation, such as the Declaration of Geneva, adopted in 1947, which reads:


“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 PRACTICE 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.”

The Declaration of Geneva appears to be similar to the Hippocratic Oath, but one of the most crucial differences is the missing oath to the divine and the willingness to accept divine punishment if it is broken. The Declaration of Geneva is closer to the moral code of ordinary people, without the constraints on the human heart. It is like a magnificent-looking house built on a shaky foundation and therefore liable to collapse at the slightest breeze.

In fact, as long as one has righteous faith in one’s conscience and the divine, one will know how to conduct oneself. There is no need for so many laws and regulations. This applies not only to the medical field but also to other professions.

The medical profession will likely continue to exist in the future. At that time, doctors will likely return to their righteous faith in the divine and the resulting medical treatment could be very different from that of today.