Doctor Groups ‘Update’ Hippocratic Oath
Several physician organizations have joined together to create a new set of guidelines to "act as a supplement" to what some in the medical profession have called an "outdated" Hippocratic oath, the Washington Times reports. The new code was published in this week's editions of the Annals of Internal Medicine and the Lancet. The "Charter of Medical Professionalism," written over the last year by members of the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine and the European Federation of Internal Medicine, will "better help doctors meet the needs of patients in the 21st century and defend patients' access to medical care," an issue not included in the 2,500-year-old oath (Sorokin, Washington Times, 2/6). The new code includes three "guiding principles" -- primacy of patient welfare, patient autonomy and social justice -- and 10 "professional responsibilities" (Davis, USA Today, 2/6). The guidelines urge doctors to "improve access to and the quality of care for patients, to maintain appropriate relations, to be honest with them, to admit errors and to maintain their confidentiality." The code also calls on doctors to maintain a "level of professional competence, to keep up with scientific advances and to avoid conflicts of interest" (Reaney, Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/6).
George Alberti, president of the Royal College of Physicians in England, said the new charter is "an aide-memoir to modern medical practice." Dr. Troyen Brennan, chair of the Medical Professionalism Project, whose members wrote the charter, said, "The Hippocratic oath offers good advice. But what we need now is more specific advice and this is what the charter sets out to do" (Washington Times, 2/6). Dr. Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, said that the new charter was needed because the practice of medicine "is pulled every day to be more of a business. That is the wrong ethic." According to USA Today, the American Medical Association is expected to release its own version "soon" (USA Today, 2/6). The full text of the code is available at http://www.annals.org/issues/v136n3/full/200202050-00012.html.