Risky therapies and the Hippocratic Oath

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Is the Hippocratic Oath relevant today? You decide. #MSBlog #MSResearch


Re: A comment about the “Hippocratic Oath” and prescribing “risky” therapies? 


“This is a reposting from October 2011; on that occasion it was in relation to the Hippocratic Oath and assisted suicide. In my opinion the modern version of the Hippocratic oath is not at odds with prescribing risky therapies and with Society adopting assisted suicide. The decision to use a risky therapy in MS always needs to be balanced against the risk of not treating the MS. You need to remember that untreated MS is a bad disease. If you don’t think so please look at my infographic at the bottom of this page on ‘Why Gray Matter matters‘.”



The following is a modern version of the Hippocratic oath; written in 1964 by Dr. Louis Lasagna:


I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not”, nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

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