Thousands of students graduate from medical schools each year to become doctors, and nearly all of those students will take some form of the Hippocratic Oath upon graduation. What was once a solemn oath to the Greek gods is now a right of passage for practitioners of western medicine. It has changed considerably since Hippocrates conceived it in ancient Greece. However, it remains a necessary moral guide for physicians. No matter which version is used, doctors who perform abortions quite clearly violate the Hippocratic Oath.
The Oath of Hippocrates in its original form explicitly prohibits both abortion and euthanasia.
“I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.”
The original Hippocratic Oath for physicians decries both practices because the author recognized the importance of upholding the sanctity of human life. The Greeks in antiquity even understood life has inherent value, and that includes the preborn.
Hippocrates found it necessary to separate good medical practice from the barbarism occurring in the name of medicine, which apparently included forms of abortion.
Fast forward to 1964, and you will see a similar condemnation, albeit implicit, in Louis Lasagna’s version of the Hippocratic Oath. Lasagna, the Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, merely changed the wording of the Oath, but it still includes a prohibition of both abortion and euthanasia:
“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.”
This passage from Lasagna’s updated version of the Oath is profound for two reasons.
First, and maybe foremost, the physician vows to not play God. God the Creator is responsible for all life in this world. It is simply not up to us to choose to end an innocent life, including the preborn.
Second, the passage recognizes the ability doctors possess to take a life, but Lasagna recognizes the responsibility to protect life rather than end it. Lasagna cites humbleness and frailty as the mechanisms a medical practitioner will use when considering the “awesome responsibility” in having the power to take someone’s life. The consideration for life here will be disputed regarding the preborn, but that argument has been debunked by embryology. The fact is life begins at conception, and the innocent preborn human being has the inherent value attributed to human life. Therefore, abortionists are breaking Lasagna’s version of the Hippocratic Oath as well.
Presently, there is an oath inspired by the Hippocratic Oath which was adopted by the World Medical Association (WMA) in 1948 and updated in 2006. It is called the Declaration of Geneva and serves as the WMA’s modern Hippocratic Oath.
According to the WMA, the Declaration of Geneva “builds on the principles of the Hippocratic Oath, and is now known as its modern version.”
This modern version “safeguards the ethical principles of the medical profession, relatively uninfluenced by zeitgeist and modernism.” Even this declaration, however, should protect the preborn.
“I WILL MAINTAIN the utmost respect for human life.”
As stated earlier, life begins at conception, according to the science of embryology. Therefore, this phrase in the Declaration of Geneva is clearly violated when a doctor performs an abortion. Abortion simply does not respect human life. Furthermore, the Declaration vows to not violate human rights.
“I WILL NOT USE my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat.”
The most foundational and primary human right is the right to life. Every other right and liberty follows it, and there can be no other rights without it. The preborn deserve the right to life as well. Abortionists are directly breaking both of these vows in the Declaration of Geneva.
Physicians are not legally bound by the Hippocratic Oath in any of its forms. However, the Oath is there to serve as a reminder of good and ethical medical practice.
There is a reason it is still used in nearly every medical school in the United States. The Hippocratic Oath is the moral guide by which physicians are to practice medicine. Those who perform abortions are violating each and every iteration of this moral guide. They are perverting healthcare by not respecting the sanctity of human life.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.