The Hippocratic Oath and the Declaration of Geneva: legitimisation attempts of professional conduct

  • Urban WiesingEmail author
Scientific Contribution


The Hippocratic Oath and the Declaration of Geneva of the World Medical Association are compared in terms of content and origin. Their relevance for current medical practice is investigated. The status which is ascribed to these documents will be shown and the status which they can reasonably claim to have will be explored. Arguments in favor of the Hippocratic Oath that rely on historical stability or historical origin are being examined. It is demonstrated that they get caught up in paradoxes. Should doctors swear the Hippocratic Oath or the Declaration of Geneva? The Hippocratic Oath is a remarkable historic document, which contains important elements still relevant for medical ethics today. Its interpretation as a timeless, still valid medical code is unfounded. The historical arguments, that should justify its validity, are untenable. The Declaration of Geneva, and not the Hippocratic Oath, can legitimately claim to come close to representing the most important principles of professional medical conduct in today’s globalised world.


Hippocratic Oath Declaration of Geneva Hippocrates World Medical Association 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author was ethics adviser in the workgroup of the World Medical Association for the revision of the Declaration of Geneva in 2017.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Ethik und Geschichte der MedizinTübingenGermany

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