The Hippocratic Oath appears to be the earliest example of a code of medical ethics. It is believed to have been written by the Greek physician Hippocrates sometime in the 4th century B.C. Although it is still taken by a large number of physicians and medical students, although it is not legally binding and has largely been replaced by modern codes of ethics.

The oath consists of the following:

  • The physicians calls on the Greek gods that oversee his profession: Apollo, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea;
  • To be faithful to the physician who taught him the craft;
  • To make prescriptions for the benefit of patients;
  • To never do harm;
  • To not engage in euthanasia;
  • To not provide a drug that will induce an abortion;
  • To not engage in surgery (surgery being a separate skilled craft at the time);
  • Not to have sex with patients or members of the patient's household;
  • To keep the confidences of patients.

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