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The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine

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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.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Miles's reading of the oath is illuminating." -New England Journal of Medicine

" The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine contains a wealth of background material. It is concise, well written, and intellectually nourishing, a road map for exploration into antiquity. It is a must for scholars and an interesting read for anyone concerned with medical ethics. --JAMA

"This is a book that every medical student should read cover to cover as should any physician or allied health care worker. Indeed, it is a book that the layman would find profitable, informative and in places amusing." --Erich H. Loewy, American Journal of Bioethics

"Despite the influence of the Hippocratic Oath on Western medicine, few comprehensive analyses of the Oath have been performed. As a result, this text is an important contribution to the medical ethics literature. It is easy to read, comprehensive, and well referenced." --Mayo Clinical Proceedings

" through its phrases with admirable skill. . . . Miles reading of the oath is illuminating. . . . He finds, as few commentators have, a dimension of social justice in the oath by distinguishing between the public and private activities of the Greek physician, both of which were governed by concepts of beneficence and justice. He concludes with a pertinent insight: noting that the oath, unlike modern codes and principles was composed to be proclaimed in the first person, he writes that its "authors spoke explicitly of the necessity for each physician to reveal his professional moral commitments. The first person voice may be part of the energy behind the Oaths endurance." Finally, teachers of medical ethics may appreciate Miles's outline of a course designed around the phrases of the oath." --New England Journal of Medicine

"The author's use of clinical vignettes to provide a modern application of the Oath is engaging and successful. This book is unique to the field. Little has been written about the relevane 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."--Doody's

Doody's Review Service
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.

3 Stars from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195188202
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/10/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 824,977
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

The Oath
Map of Ancient Greece
1 Grand Rounds 1
I Physician, who are you?
2 Creators 15
3 Teachers 26
4 Learners 35
II To what are Physicians Committed?
5 The Health of the Public 55
6 Deadly Drugs 66
7 Abortion 81
8 Integrity 95
9 Errors 105
10 Consent and Truth-Telling 124
11 Exploiting Patients 139
12 Discretion in Speech 149
III In what Way are Physicians Accountable?
13 A Trustworthy Profession 161
Afterword: The Oath for Our Time 171
App. A Timeline 187
App. B The Oath as a Curricular Outline for Medical Ethics 189
Bibliography 193
Index 205
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