What Happens if a Doctor Breaks the Hippocratic Oath?


By Samuel Phineas Upham

hippocraticoathThe Hippocratic Oath was designed to provide medical professionals with some best practices, or guidelines, they could use to guide a patient’s treatment. The pursuit of science and curiosity can drive strange practices. We saw this in World War II, especially with regards to Unit 731. In order to put a stop to horrible acts such as human weapons testing, the oath has been revised several times to reflect modern thinking on the subject of medical obligation.

The oath was written by Hippocrates, or one of his students, sometime between the third and fifth century B.C. It did not always include phrases requiring doctors to show the “utmost respect for human life from its beginning”, nor does it include the phrase “do no harm”.

The document is meant to be secular, but is often referred to in a religious context when framed in an abortion or lethal injection debate. Especially considering Hippocrates himself would have most assuredly been anti-abortion.

Breaking the Hippocratic Oath carries no specific punishments today, but it could be argued that malpractice is how doctors are punished for poor performance. The Oath does not require any specific legal penalties, but there can be a wide range of punishments for malpractice. However, the Hippocratic Oath is frequently referenced in situations of malpractice, so it’s clearly a document of some importance.

Traditionally, the Hippocratic Oath was akin to medical law. There might be severe financial punishments for doctors who broke it, or one could be barred from practice entirely.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Facebook.

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