Doctors are set to reject a revised version of the 2,500-year-old Hippocratic Oath, after the inclusion of a paragraph allowing “ethical abortions.”

Delegates to a recent meeting of the British Medical Association were asked to approve an updated version of the oath, taken by many graduating doctors. But it appeared that the motion would not be carried, as many doctors rejected the “politicization” of the honored oath.

Under the old oath, derived from the writings of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, it states: “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone, if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner, I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion.”

The revised motion, however, states: “I recognize the special value of human life but I also know that the prolongation of human life is not the only aim of health care. Where abortion is permitted, I agree that it should take place only within an ethical and legal framework.”

At least 12 motions were included in the conference agenda criticizing elements of the new oath. It was produced by the British Medical Association’s ethical committee over two years. Two of the motions specifically called for the removal of the paragraph relating to abortion.

The British medical body has been studying the revised oath since 1995. The revised version, which was sent to all BMA members, was due to be sent to the World Medical Association for formal adoption.

Doctors objecting to the revised oath referred to the abortion paragraph as being morally unacceptable. They say it would be especially difficult for doctors in Catholic countries to support the revised oath. One delegate said the oath needs to be carefully reworded to allow someone who has moral objections to participate in taking the oath without feeling the need to compromise.

Vivian Nutton, a professor of the history of medicine at University College, London, said the new oath was “so bland as to be almost irrelevant.”

He said there was a strong argument among medical ethicists that instead of being doctor-led, that it should have been public and patient-led.

London Telegraph via Pro-Life E News Canada