The Hippocratic Oath is confusing, out of date, and contradictory. In a world in which health care is determined not by doctors or health professionals but rather by politicians and their decisions, it is difficult and confusing to progress with healthcare legislation when the medical community is beholden by a different set of regulations. By forcing doctors to promise to protect a patient’s life at all costs, the Hippocratic Oath essentially prolongs the current conservative healthcare system.
With healthcare decisions becoming increasingly liberal, though, the protection of life is being set on the backburner. On issues such as abortion, in fact, the medical community overtly goes against the Hippocratic Oath because of a conflict between the Roe v. Wade decision and the existing oath.
A new dilemma arises over the force feedings at Guantanamo Bay. Currently, doctors are on orders both by politicians in Washington and by their Hippocratic Oath to preserve the lives of suicide intent Guantanamo Bay subjects. But what if Washington is to decide to ban force feeding, a position supported by much of the international community? In such a case, doctors will be torn between protecting the lives of their patients and upholding a set of laws contradicting that. This contradiction with the basis of all healthcare, the Hippocratic Oath, makes it much more difficult for Washington policymakers to disavow force feeding.
On euthanasia too progress is failing because of the Hippocratic Oath. Doctors, under the Hippocratic Oath, are obliged to protect the lives of their patients above all else. This is inconsistent with the path many states have gone to allow euthanasia if a doctor has certified that a patient is terminally ill. It is only a matter of time before such a policy goes to a national scale; after all, policies tend to get more liberal over time rather than conservative. The Hippocratic Oath serves currently as an impediment to easing the suffering of dying patients.
The issue with the Hippocratic Oath is that it leaves little room for maneuvering. When citizens are placing their lives in a doctor’s hands, it only makes sense for the doctor to get full responsibility to take a decision. A doctor should not be held accountability by the Hippocratic Oath, an outdated medical practice that mandates a right to life rather than offering it as a liberty. In the present day, the Hippocratic Oath stifles liberal healthcare bills condoning euthanasia and preventing force feeding from passing. And, in the future, as politics continues to liberalize and euthanasia and voluntary starvation become legal, doctors will soon be repeating the Hippocratic Oath on a page while acting very differently on the operating table.