The Hippocratic Oath: Moral Analysis

Subject: Healthcare Research
Pages: 5
Words: 1128
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College

The Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest documents in the history of humanity. While it was created thousands of years ago, this text is still widely used by medical professionals all over the world. With the Hippocratic Oath help, physicians promise to take care of the sick, treat individuals regardless of their status, preserve patients’ privacy, and transfer all the valuable knowledge to new generations. Several specific elements in the Hippocratic Oath can be analyzed from the perspective of morality. For instance, the document requires doctors to “apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to their ability and judgment” and “to keep them from harm and injustice.” While various moral principles applied to this statement can support it, they also tend to challenge it. Therefore, the following paper will develop a moral analysis of this statement by using different ethical principles for its explanation.

In order to discuss this phrase using various moral principles, it is primarily necessary to understand this rule and the purpose behind its application. The idea behind this statement supports the aim of the whole Hippocratic Oath since it claims that the doctor should act for the benefit of ill individuals. Specific activities, such as applying dietetic measures, should be undertaken for the positive outcome of treatment while using a doctor’s potential and knowledge to the full extent (Hulkower 42). In addition, this rule establishes the principle that doctors should do their patients no harm. This promise includes not performing such practices as abortion or euthanasia (Hulkower 42). In case a hospital or a government requires a medical professional to practice these procedures, the doctor should instead leave the profession than disrespect their moral principles and the Hippocratic Oath (Hulkower 42). Thus, the main idea of the discussed statement is to act for the good of the patients and refuse to perform any harmful activities.

The moral analysis of this part of the Hippocratic Oath can be completed with the help of different moral principles. One of the ethical standards that can be applied to this rule and support it is beneficence. This concept addresses the idea that any actions conducted by doctors, nurses, or other medical specialists should be performed only to benefit the treated individual (Hulkower 41). While applying the moral principle of beneficence, professionals should think about a sick person as a whole and identify what can be the long-term outcomes of the care provided (Hulkower 41). Consequently, when doctors promise to apply the needed dietetic measures according to their ability and judgment, they will do everything possible to ensure the treatment program’s favorable and durable result. They do not only promise to provide them with medicine and other services but also incorporate dietetic regimens for the benefit of the overall well-being.

Furthermore, this rule can be discussed using the moral principle called nonmaleficence which supports the statement as well. This concept is one of the first ones professionals should consider when making medical decisions because it holds that doctors should not intentionally harm their patients (Erickson 101). Conducting harmless actions is considered the Hippocratic Oath’s central message even though the document itself does not express it in many words (Erickson 100). Nevertheless, the discussed rule clearly states that a doctor should promise to do no harm to sick individuals. On the example of this rule it can be explained that, as mentioned before, medical professionals can prevent themselves from doing certain actions. If specialists believe that these activities might bring harm to the patients and their physical well-being, they should choose to refuse to provide these services.

The moral principle of justice is also mentioned in this rule and supports it. This concept can be described as the obligation to treat people the way they deserve while also considering their needs, preferences, and values (Hulkower 41). Therefore, when mentioning this rule, graduating physicians and medical students state their intention to treat and communicate with their future patients justly and ethically (Hulkower 41). In addition, by claiming that they will keep individuals from injustice, doctors mean that they will be able to prioritize the needs of their patients and do everything to provide with the necessary medical support.

Even though these three moral principles support the rule, they can also challenge it if explained from a different perspective. For instance, when considering beneficence, it should be indicated that it is focused on doing good for the treated person and promoting positive outcomes of care. At the same time, it can be hard to identify what this means for the patients themselves. While doctors may perceive dietetic measures as beneficial for health, individuals might claim that these activities negatively influence their physical well-being. Moreover, nonmaleficence and injustice can also bring complications to understanding the discussed part of the Hippocratic Oath. Doctors choose not to perform such actions as abortion and euthanasia because they harm individuals and are unjust. However, patients often perceive these practices as their only way to continue their life, achieve peace, or get rid of suffering (Hulkower 42). Consequently, while different moral principles can support the discussed rule of the Hippocratic Oath, they can also bring complications to its understanding and analysis.

In general, the Hippocratic Oath received a substantial amount of criticism from people, and while investigating a particular rule, it can be understood why. Even though various moral principles can be applied to the rule about dietetic measures, harm, and injustice, they can challenge it when investigated from the patients’ perspective. For this reason, millions of people believe that the Hippocratic Oath as a whole is outdated and “fails to incorporate many new ideals that are held dear to medical practice” (Hulkower 42). It is now believed that before making any decisions, doctors should consider the personal opinion of patients even if it does not match specific moral principles (Hulkower 42). Nevertheless, despite all the criticism, the Hippocratic Oath and its rules are still a foundation of medical practice in the contemporary world because they provide doctors with their basic requirements (Hulkower 42). Therefore, while moral principles justify the discussed rule at all times, it should still be implemented by specialists.

Overall, the Hippocratic Oath is an ancient document that is still used by medical professionals all over the globe. The text provides doctors with their main requirements and encourages them to act justly and morally, take care of the sick, and pass important knowledge from generation to generation. Different parts of the Hippocratic Oath can be analyzed from the perspective of morality and explain the reasoning behind specialists’ actions. While various moral principles can support specific rules, they can also challenge them. Therefore, the presented essay discussed the rule about dietetic measures, harm, and injustice by applying three ethical principles to it.


Erickson, Frederick. “First, Do No Harm: A Comment.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 1, 2016, pp. 100-103.

Hulkower, Raphael. “The History of the Hippocratic Oath: Outdated, Inauthentic, and Yet Still Relevant.” Einstein Journal of Biology and Medicine, vol. 25, no. 1, 2016, pp. 41-44.