OF all the Hippocratic writings the Oath, in spite
of its shortness, is perhaps the most interesting to
the general reader and also to the modern medical
man. Whatever its origin, it is a landmark in the
ethics of medicine.
Yet its exact relationship to the history of
medicine is unknown, and apparently, in our present
state of knowledge, unknowable. The student must,
at every stage of the inquiry, confess his ignorance.
What is the date of the Oath ? Is it mutilated or
interpolated ? Who took the oath, all practitioners
or only those belonging to a guild ? What binding
force had it beyond its moral sanction ? Above all,
was it ever a reality or merely a " counsel of perfection" ?
To all these questions the honest inquirer
can only say that for certain he knows
Such being the case it is most important to
realize clearly what actually is known. In the
first place, the Oath was admitted to be genuinely
Hippocratic by Erotian.
As to internal evidence, the Oath, besides binding
all who take it to certain moral rules of practice,
makes them also promise to act in a certain manner
The taker of the oath--
(1) Will treat the children of his teacher as
though they were his brothers ;