This engaging book examines what the Hippocratic Oath meant to Greek physicians 2400 years ago and reflects on its relevance to medical ethics today. Drawing on the writings of ancient physicians, Greek playwrights, and modern scholars, each chapter explores one of its passages and concludes with a modern case discussion. The Oath proposes principles governing the relationship between the physician and society and patients. It rules out the use of poison and a hazardous abortive technique. It defines integrity and discretion in physicians' speech. The ancient Greek medical works written during the same period as the Oath reveal that Greek physicians understood that they had a duty to avoid medical errors and learn from bad outcomes. These works showed how and why to tell patients about their diseases and dire prognoses in order to develop a partnership for healing and to build the credibility of the profession. Miles uses these writings to illuminate the meaning of the Oath in its day and in so doing shows how and why it remains a valuable guide to the ethical practice of medicine. This is a book for anyone who loves medicine and is concerned about the ethics and history of this profession.
Reviewer:Ryan B Spellecy, PhD(Medical College of Wisconsin Health Policy Institute)
Description:This book provides a solid context for the background of the Hippocratic Oath, as well as the Oath's role in modern medicine.
Purpose:The author seeks to apply the Hippocratic Oath to 21st century medicine. To do this, he explores the history and context of the Oath, inserting vignettes from modern medicine to highlight aspects of the Oath that are both relevant and needed today.
Audience:The audience is physicians, students in the health sciences, scholars engaged in bioethics, and the general public. The book will likely appeal more to physicians and students of the health sciences. Although the author is certainly an authority in bioethics, delving into the classics is a new venture for him. The historical aspects of the book are neither exhaustive nor authoritative, though this is not the intent.
Features:The book explores the meaning and relevance of the Hippocratic Oath for modern medicine. The author explores the entire Oath in sections, discussing not only the prohibition against prescribing a deadly drug, but also often overlooked topics such as the invoking of Greek deities in the Oath and how that invocation shapes the Oath, as well as the Oath's relevance today. The author's use of clinical vignettes to provide a modern application of the Oath is engaging and successful. While he merely summarizes the literature regarding classical scholarship instead of engaging it, such as the authorship of the Oath or the practice of euthanasia in Ancient Greece, this will likely not be an issue for many readers.
Assessment:This book is unique to the field. Little has been written about the relevance of the Oath to modern medicine, as many have thought the Oath was irrelevant to the practice of modern medicine. This book provides a very serious, compelling challenge to that assumption.