Hippocrates Lost, A Professional Ethic Regained: Reflections on the Death of the Hippocratic Tradition
In the present article, it is my intent to consider the morality of the Hippocratic Oath in the context of a larger discussion of bioethics. That discussion is itself so remarkable, and so contrary to the morality of the Hippocratic Oath, that I shall take its existence as the starting point for my present reflections. The existence of bioethics is remarkable because it presupposes a common ground of dialog between philosophers and physicians, a willingness on the part of both professions to contribute insights from their specialized literature and their diverse experiences to the solution (or at least the clarification) of problems that sprawl across the historic boundaries of either one. And it is contrary to the morality of the Hippocratic Oath that such willingness should be there on the part of the physicians. Those in the field tend to begin all such articles or discussions with a comment on the “recent interest in bioethics”: this odd mannerism should call our attention to the profound changes in medicine proper that have made discussions of bioethics at all possible, changes specifically in the very influence of the Hippocratic Oath on those practicing in the field.
KeywordsProfessional Ethic Secret Society Hippocratic Oath Future People Hastings Center Report
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