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Many people were shocked recently to learn that not all physicians are required to swear the Hippocratic oath upon receiving their M.D. degrees. A survey of American medical schools showed that about one in four does not administer professional oaths of any kind. At a time when so many ethical problems, both old and new, are being hotly discussed in the field of medicine, is it possible that the Hippocratic oath has lost its value?

Certainly, the profession appears to have grave doubts about the continued validity of the oath. In recent years, there have been many attempts to modernize or replace it, but so far no alternative version has been able to command anything like general acceptance.

Despite uncertainties about the authorship of the original oath (it is generally ascribed to Hippocrates, a famous Greek physician of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.), its importance in the history of medical, ethics is acknowledged by all.