While there is currently no legal obligation for doctors and healthcare professional to swear an oath to practice medicine honestly and ethically, the Declaration of Geneva or the Physician's Oath was adopted by the General Assembly of the World Medical Association at Geneva in 1948. It was intended as a revision of the Hippocratic Oath to a formulation of that oath's moral truths that could be comprehended and acknowledged in a modern way.
The Hippocratic Oath, written in Ionic Greek is an oath historically taken by physicians and other healthcare professionals. It is widely believed to have been written by Hippocrates in late 5th century BC often regarded as the father of western medicine, or by one of his students.
The English translation for the Hippocratic Oath read as follow:
I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:
To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art; and that by my teaching, I will impart a knowledge of this art to my own sons, and to my teacher's sons, and to disciples bound by an indenture and oath according to the medical laws, and no others.
I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.
I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and similarly I will not give a woman a peccary to cause an abortion.
But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.
I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.
In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or men, be they free or slaves.
All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.
If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practise my art, respected by all humanity and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my life.
While the The Declaration of Geneva, as currently published by the WMA reads:
At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession:
I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;
I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;
I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;
I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;
I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.
Regardless of the way these two oaths was written, both serves as a reminder that a medication practitioner must give his/her best to patients. However, these days I wonder if medical practitioners still abide by the principle of the Hippocratic Oath or they’d taken up the Hypocrites’ Oath, judging at the many incidents that are currently ongoing, from clinics hiring fake doctors as locums to private hospitals turning away accident victims without medical insurance to doctors overcharging patients with unnecessary medications and doctors intentionally maxing out patient’s medical insurance allowance, thus, turning to be hypocrites in white robes. And the most common of all malpractice is churning out MCs without the patient having to see the doctor at all.
Apart from what we read in the media about misconduct of doctors and medical professionals, hereby are some experiences that my friends and I experienced:
1. A friend’s friend was injured during a robbery and she was driven to two private hospitals that turn her away without giving any medical assistance by citing the reason that it is a complicated case that will involve police therefore they are not free to deal with it. At the end, she was admitted by the Sg Buloh Hospital, the third hospital that she went.
2. A cousin of mine, who had a motorbike accident, was given surgery one after another for fractured leg. Instead of curing the two fractured end of his femur in one surgery, the doctor chooses to do it twice. When questioned by my aunty, the doctor replied that “Don’t worry; his medical insurance can still cover the costs in the event that a third surgery is needed.”
3. Once I went to a very famous private hospital in Ampang to consult a cardiologist due to chest pain. The first thing that the nurse doing my registration asked me was did I have a medical card. When I replied yes, she suggested that I check into the hospital for an overnight stay so that I can claim the insurance. I did as was told, and after doing all the checks, it was my thyroid problem that causes the chest pain. When I request for a check out the next day, the doctor asked why I don’t want to stay there to rest for a few more days since I can do so with my insurance entitlement.
4. An acquaintance’s mother was asked by the private hospital to be transferred to the government hospital when the family members asked if the medical fee could be cheaper because they come from a not so well do to family. The reason they checked her into the private hospital was because of the long waiting list at the National Heart Institute for angioplasty as her family members fear that she can’t survive the long wait. This acquaintance called me to ask him I know of a way to help his mother to get a faster access at the National Heart Institute which I then referred to my MCA comrade for help.
There are many more cases regarding doctors that might take pages to write if I am to list them one by one. Therefore, my philosophical mind wondered which oath that the doctors and medical professionals adhere to, the Hippocratic Oath or Hypocrites’ Oath in this materialistic world where money seems to be everything and the famous saying by laymen that at time of medical crisis, money can prolong a human’s life.