By Sola Ogundipe
The Physicians’ Pledge, a modern successor to the age-long Hippocratic Oath for physicians around the world, has been approved by the World Medical Association, WMA.
The new oath is expected to become the global ethical code for all physicians as early as 2019 after a thorough revision process, including a period for public consultation.
The new Physicians’ Oath was approved, weekend, following revisions to the 1948 Declaration of Geneva, by global physician leaders attending a meeting at the WMA’s annual General Assembly in Chicago, USA.
The current Declaration of Geneva is used across the world by physicians. It is actually part of the medical professional code in many countries including Nigeria, and is legally binding, although in some countries it is either not used at all or is adapted in some way.
“The new wording respects the unique character and significance of this Declaration, but focuses more on important ethical principles not in the current version and not expressed explicitly,” said WMA President, Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura.
“The life of physicians today is completely different to what it was in 1948 when the original Declaration of Geneva was adopted. Since then, the Declaration has become a core document of medical ethics and a modern version of the 2,500-year old Hippocratic Oath.
“We hope that the Declaration approved today will be used by all physicians around the world to strengthen the profession’s determination to maintain the highest standard of health care for patients.”
The revised Declaration refocuses the original text of the Hippocratic Oath to reflect changes over the decades in the relationship between physicians and their patients and between physicians themselves.
For the first time, the new pledge makes specific reference to respecting the autonomy of the patient, which is not included in the original Declaration. There is a new obligation on physicians to share medical knowledge for the benefit of their patients and the advancement of healthcare.
A new obligation for respect between teachers, colleagues and students is also recognized, unlike in the current text in which students are urged to respect their teachers, but there is no reciprocity.
Also added is a requirement for physicians to attend to their own health, well-being and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.