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  • Writer's pictureJoan Rothchild Hardin

Wisdom from Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine

Hippocrates of Kos was a Greek physician, philosopher and naturalist. He was born in Kos, Greece in 460 BC and died in Larissa, Greece in 370 BC. His wise observations are the basis of the Hippocratic Oath physician’s pledge to uphold. Read the modern version of the Oath and see if you think your physicians are upholding it.

  • Are they focusing on prevention?

  • Are they knowledgeable about nutrition?

  • Are they over treating?

  • Are they engaging in therapeutic nihilism

  • Are they attempting to play God?

Hippocratic Oath – Modern Version

Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today. I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant: I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow. I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of over treatment and therapeutic nihilism. I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug. I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery. I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God. I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick. I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure. I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm. If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help. I find it interesting that Hippocrates’ injunction to DO NO HARM has been omitted from the modern version.

© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021

I am not sure why we go on tying these claims to Hippocrates… None of those quotes can be tied to his name.

Helen King

In reply to helen king


Many thanks for sending the article. It certainly makes a strong case for Hippocrates not having uttered or penned any of the quotes attributed to him, not being the father of Western medicine nor the source for any of the content of the modern Oath many physicians take.

Joan hardin

Also, it’s a bit rich to say ‘I find it interesting that Hippocrates’ injunction to DO NO HARM has been omitted from the modern version’ when this was never in the Oath – it comes from a different ‘Hippocratic’ text.

Helen King

In reply to helen king

Thanks, Helen. Which Hippocratic text does the FIRST DO NO HARM injunction came from?

Joan Hardin

In reply to Joan Hardin

Hello Joan – ‘First do no harm’ is closest to a line from the collection called ‘Epidemics’, book 1 chapter 11: ‘as for diseases, make a habit of two things: to help, or at least to do no harm’

Helen King

In reply to Helen King.Thanks so much!

Joan Hardin


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