It is well worth examining the changes over time in the oaths physicians swear to, especially as we have entered an era when the term “doctor” is being applied to people whose goal is not to preserve life and to heal, but to kill and inflict injury. The World Medical Association is also decided to revamp to Declaration of Geneva, which is the modern-day Hippocratic Oath.
Nobody knows what the new Declaration will be, but we have clues in the changes to the Hippocratic oath, and in considering the politicization of medicine. I do not mean this review to be exhaustive.
The original Hippocratic oath opened thusly:
I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius the surgeon, likewise Hygeia and Panacea, and call all the gods and goddesses to witness, that I will observe and keep this underwritten oath, to the utmost of my power and judgment.
This had, in places, morphed to “I swear by God” or some variant. In the original oath is also the clause “I will comport myself and use my knowledge in a godly manner.” A modern version of that oath, written in 1964, began “I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant”; buried in another clause are the words “Above all, I must not play at God.” The Declaration of Geneva, written in 1948, and currently perhaps the most used document, begins, “I SOLEMNLY PLEDGE to consecrate my life to the service of humanity”.
Swearing an oath to be under the watchful eye and (ultimate) judgement of God or even of the gods is a terrible and awesome burden. Promising to be godly recognizes and puts supreme authority above the physician; it is humbling. Tepid admonitions not to “play God” imply a man could be God but shouldn’t, or at least not too often.
The modern documents are not quite oaths, merely promises a man makes to himself. How so? By 1948 the words covenant consecrate, which are in the modern documents, had become what David Stove called a “smile words”. They used to mean “a solemn (or sacred) compact” and “to set apart as a sacred office”, but now they only mean “believed by somebody to be a solemn compact” and “believed by somebody to be a sacred office.” Believed by somebody, not me, that is. The words have been drained of force; thus, those that use the words know they aren’t sacrificing much freedom. Certainly the modern “oaths” are more like guidelines than pledging one’s soul.
The second clause of the original:
I will reverence my master who taught me the art. Equally with my parents, will I allow him things necessary for his support, and will consider his sons as brothers. I will teach them my art without reward or agreement; and I will impart all my acquirement, instructions, and whatever I know, to my master’s children, as to my own; and likewise to all my pupils, who shall bind and tie themselves by a professional oath, but to none else.
In Geneva this changes to the brief “I WILL GIVE to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due”, an amusing difference. We have moved from “I will teach them my art without reward or agreement” to “The median education debt for medical school shall be $170,000, and that is before residency.”
The most consequential discords are in the value of life. Relevant clauses from the original oath:
With regard to healing the sick…I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.
Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so. Moreover, I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.
“Doctors” now routinely kill the lives inside would-be mothers, and, in some countries legally and elsewhere illegally, even kill their patients. Not accidentally; on purpose and by design. “Doctors” also now—for a fee—mutilate patients or cause them other harm, usually at the patients’ request but not always (parents might request mutilation for a child, or relatives for an unconscious patient).
The 1964 contract excised the original hard proscriptions, and in their place, or anyway added,
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
These are an enormous changes! Before, patients sought out physicians when they were ill. Now, physicians must seek out patients even when they are in health. Physicians have become authorities over patients, instead of the opposite. Consider that the actions to prevent lack of health are limitless, thus theoretically the power physicians gave to themselves is also without limit.
In Geneva, the cautions against causing death and injury are these:
THE HEALTH OF MY PATIENT will be my first consideration;
I WILL MAINTAIN the utmost respect for human life;
These are banalities, as is obvious in cultures which preach that abortion, euthanasia, and mutilation are “rights”. Since it is impossible to have a right without a responsibility, a “right” to a killing requires the responsibility on someone to do the killing. This is why governments are requiring doctors to perform “services” such as killing and maiming. Apropos is this article (with implied affirmative answer: “Could it soon be illegal for doctors to believe in male and female?”
Significantly absent in Geneva are any proscriptions or cautions against directly harming any person. Yet in the modified Hippocrates is found this bizarre passage: “But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humility and awareness of my own frailty.” The “doctors” who perform abortions do not think of those that they are killing as “patients”; instead the would-be mothers are “clients” who receive a “service”, much like a man at a garage has a scratch buffed out on his car. Doctors who kill patients at the patients’ request do, of course, consider those they kill as patients, but only in a brutal, utilitarian, which is to say pagan, sense. It’s not patient lives which are to be cherished, but (states of) “health.”
Absent from the original Hippocrates are specific political statements. Not so in the 1964 version, which contains this: “I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings”. Now this doesn’t seem much, until these passages from Geneva (which were inserted well after 1964) are considered:
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 NOT USE my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
Both statements reek with politics. The first clause is entirely superfluous, medically speaking. And it’s nonsensical practically. Does blindness to “sexual orientation” include ignoring rapists, pedophiles, those attracted to goats, cadavers, fairground rides or God knows what all else? What could “or any other factor” possibly mean? “Rights” is so abused that we needn’t discuss it. “Civil liberties” is the Orwellian phrase that means “uncivil restrictions”, things like mandated commerce and forced assembly. A male patient pretending to be a woman (and possibly maimed by another “doctor” in an attempt to resemble one) and insist it is his “civil right” to be treated as a woman, which is to make medicine a farce.
We can reliably forecast more inversions in the changes to the Declaration of Geneva. According to Urban Wiesing and Ramin Parsa-Pars, in a Bioethics article discussing the World Medical Association’s proposed modifications, “respect for patient self-determination has been established as one of the most important principles of medical ethics. However, it is not mentioned in the Declaration of Geneva.” Meaning it will be.
Not only will health be a “right”, but so will whatever body state a patient wishes. And, as above, since rights implies responsibilities, patient “self-determination” will be forced upon doctors—and upon you, too.