Doctors are not honouring the Hippocratic Oath

doctors in GhanaAccra, April 30, 2013

Every year, hundreds of medical students graduate in Ghana. One significant demand required to fully admit them into the medical practice is the swearing of the Hippocratic Oath.

The incessant strike that has bedevilled the health sector has compelled a section of the public to question the potency of this oath; one of the oldest binding documents in history, believed to be held sacred by physicians to treat the ill to the best of one's ability, to preserve a patient's privacy, to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation.

“I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice. I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.”  These are quotations from the first English translation of the Hippocratic Oath.

Drafted in 1948 by the world’s medical association, medical practitioners are obliged according to their ethical standards to swear this oath before engaging in the practice of medicine.

The oath is considered as the rite of passage for practitioners of medicine in many countries. But the modernized version of the text varies among countries.

Although there is no legal obligation for medical students to swear the oath upon graduating, a greater percentage of students swear some form of oath globally. Nonetheless some experienced medical practitioners say the oath is not being respected like in the past.  

Whereas doctors swear the Hippocratic Oath, Pharmacists swear the Apothycratic Oath. Meanwhile a Pharmacist and lawyer who also doubles as the spokesperson for the government hospitals pharmacists association says unresolved labour issues have compelled health professionals to disregard the oath.

What then, is the essence of taking the oath if people will disregard it as and when it becomes convenient for them?  Oaths taken should be guided by principles.

Priscilla Selinam Sogah / e.tv Ghana News

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