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August 27, 1971 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1971-08-27

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Purely Commentary

Fascinating Story of Student
Rebellion Against Mythology

A Most sensational academic story
emanated from the University of Miami
Medical School.

For the second year in succession, the
graduates voted — unanimously ! — to sub-
stitute the Maimonides Code for the tradi-
tional Hippocratic Oath.

The Maimonides set of principles for the
medical profession was preferred for two
reasons. In the first place, the Hippocratic
Oath placed a ban on abortions, whereas
Maimonides' principles are more flexible.

The Hippocratic version which had been
used as an oath by doctors for decades
states specifically: "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 oath the graduates from the Univer-
sity of Miami College of Medicine adopted
was the liberal view of Rabbi Moses ben
Maimon—known in history as Maimonides
(1135-1204): "May I never see in the patient _
anything but a fellow creature in pain.
Grant me strength, time and opportunity
always to correct what I have acquired, al-
ways to extend its domain . . . "-

But there also was the reaction against
Hippocrates' resort to ancient mythology
that caused the students to turn to the more
modern version of a great Jewish doctor and
philosopher who taught humanism 800 years


The action of the University of 'Miami
students has resulted in a most fascinating
story. This year, the class of 95-10 of
them women—voted to continue the action
that was taken last year by the preceding
class in turning to Maimonides and aban-
doning the Hippocrates Oath.

The university's public information
officer, Jack Oswald, relates the consecu-
tive developments. Describing how, for the
second year, students "opted to take the
Maimonides route," Oswald tells us:
"Last year, Dr. Rufus K. Broadaway,
then president of the Dade County Medi-
cal Association and commencement speak-
er, suggested the substitution, and the
class voted to go along with it, just as did
this year's class. Neither oath is required;
apparently the oath-taking is just a tradi-
tion. It's obvious, aside from the refer-
ences to abortion and cutting "persons la-
boring under the stone," that the Hippo-
cratic Oath is further anachronistic in
having young physicians swear by "Apol-
lo, Aesculapius, Hygeia and Panacea and
all the gods and goddesses."
"I don't know of any other schools
which offer the option, although it's quite
possible some do. So-me, I understand,
don't require any oath, and I've been told
that some have taken the liberty to modi-
fy the Hippocratic Oath in the name of
modernity—but these observations, I em-
phasize, are either conjecture or hearsay
on my part."
Crediting Dr. Broadaway with having
spearheaded the change in oath-taking,
Dr. Manuel M. Papper, dean of the Miami
School of Medicine, said it was traditional
for students to take the Hippocratic Oath
at graduation ceremonies, and that at the
Miami school the oath was administered
by the Dade County Medical Association—
but there are no legal requirements for
young medics to take such an oath.
The modernity of Maimonidean teach-
ings, Dr. Papper said, enduced preference,
and one of the reasons for the abandonment
of the Hippocratic pledge is its prohibition
on stones, as the text we reproduce indi-
cates. Referring to the removing of stones
and the abortion issue, Dr. Papper said:
"Removing stones is a major element in
today's surgery. Also ; it was felt by the
students that the outlook on abortions is
undergoing a change in today's society,
and that we should not ask younger doc-
tors to swear against abortions since some
of the doctors might be performing them."
The young doctors, unanimously adopt-
ing the Maimonides Oath, enjoyed the
change from Hippocrates to Maimonides.

2—Friday, August 27, 1971

Medical Graduates in Miami Turn to Maimonides
for Modernity, Abandoning Hippocratic Oath . . .
the Competing Texts . . . Amatus Lusitanus Oath


Codt for


GOD, Thou has formed the body of man, with. infinite goodness; Thou
has( united in him innumerable forces incessantly at work like "so man)
instruments, so as to preserve in its entirety this beautiful house coniain-
ing his immortal soul and these forces act with all the order, concord, and har-
mony imaginable. But if weakness or violent passion disturb this harmony, these
forces act against one another and the body returns to the dust whence it came.
Thou seri Jest then to man Thy messengers, the diseases which announce the
approach of danger, and bid him prepare to overcome them. The Eternal Provi-
dence has appointed me to watch o'er the life and health of Thy creatures. May
the love of my art actuate me at all times, may neither avarice, nor miserliness,
nor the thirst for glory or a great reputation engage my mind; for, enemies of
truth and philanthropy, they could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of
my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children. Endow me with strength of heart
and mind, so that both may be ready to serve the rich and the poor, the good
and the wicked, friend and enemy, and that I may never see in the patient any-
.thing else but a fellow creature in pain.

IF physicians more learned than I wish to counsel me, inspire me with confi-
dence in and obedience toward the recognition of them, for the study of the
science is great. It . is not given to one alone to see all that others see. May I be
moderate in everything except in the knowledge of this science; so' far as it is
concerned, may I be insatiable; grant me the strength and opportunity always
to correct what I have acquired, always to extend its domain; for knowledge is
boundless and the spirit of Man can also extend infinitely, daily to enrich itself
with new acquirements. Today he can discover his errors of yesterday, and to-
morrow he may obtain new light on what he thinks himself sure of today.

GOD, Thou hast appOintkd me to watch o'er the life and death of Thy .crea-
tures; here am I ready for my vocation.

For an understanding of the relative
values of the two competing pledges it is
necessary to know their contents.
Several versions of both the Maimonides
Oath and the one by Hippocrates have been
used, and some translations differ.
A fairly close paraphrase of the Greek
version of the Hippocratic Oath was pro-
vided by the late Prof. John G. Curtis • of
the College of Physicians and Surgeons. It
was in his form ,administered at commence-
ments at Columbia, Cornell and other uni-
versities to candidates for the doctor of
medicine degree. His version reads:
I do solemnly swear by that which I
hold me sacred:
That I will be loyal to the profession
of medicine and just and generous to its
That I will lead my life and practice
my art in uprightness and honor;
That into whatsoever house I shall en-
ter, it shall be for the good of the sick to
the utmost of my power, I holding myself
aloof from wrong, from corruption, and
from the temptation of others to vice;
That I will exercise my art solely for
the cure of my patients, and will give no
drug, perform no operation for a criminal
purpose, even if solicited, far less suggest
That whatsoever I shall see or hear
of the lives of men which is not fitting
to be spoken, I will keep inviolably se-
These things I do promise, and in pro-
portion as I am faithful to this my oath
may happiness and good repute be ever
mine—the opposite if I shall be forsworn.
The modernization of the Hippocratic
Oath by the World Medical Association,
known as the Declaration of Geneva (1948),
is worthy of note. It runs:
"Now being admitted to the profession
of medicine, I solemnly pledge to conse-
crate my life to the service of humanity.
I will give respect and gratitude to my


deserving teachers. I will practice medi-
cine with conscience and dignity. The
health and life of my patients will be my
first consideration. I will hold in confi-
dence all that my patient confides in me.
I will maintain the honor and noble tra-
ditions of the medical profession. My col-
leagues will be my brothers. I will not
permit consideration of race, religion, na-
tionality, party politics or social standing
to intervene between my duty and my
patient. I will maintain the utmost re-
spect for human life from its conception.
Even under threat I will not use my
knowledge contrary to the laws of human-
ity. These promises I make freely and
upon my honor."

The Maimonides Oath as administered
to the University of Miami medical students
"Thy eternal providence has appointed
me to watch over the life and health of
Thy creatures. May the love for my art
actuate me at all times; may neither ava-
rice nor miserliness, nor thirst for glory,
or for a great reputation engage my mind;
for the enemies of truth and philanthropy
could easily deceive me and make me for-
getful of my lofty aim of doing good to
Thy children. May I never see in the pa-
tient anything but a fellow creature in
pain. Grant me strength, time and oppor-
tunity always to correct what I have ac-
quired, always to extend its domain; for
knowledge is immense and the spirit of
man can extend indefinitely to enrich it-
self daily with new requirements. Today
he can discover his errors of yesterday
and tomorrow he may obtain a new light
on what he thinks himself sure of today.
Oh, God, Thou has appointed me to watch
over the life and death of Thy creatures;
here I am ready for my vocation and now
I turn unto my calling."

We are pleased to present here, how-
ever, the traditional Jewish text in its
entirety, and the reproduction of the
Hebrew text on the first page of this issue
offers Hebrew students an opportunity to
become fully acquainted with the magni-
ficent code that has inspired Miami stu-
dents and may be adopted by doctors every-

By Philip

where and by medical graduates in many
other universities.
We are indebted to Dr. Harry M.
Orlinsky and to the librarians of Hebrew

Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
for the Hebrew text and the complete

The Amatus Lusitanus Oath
Of related interest is the Oath of Ama-

tus Lusitanus ... It has been republished in
large, attractive format, suitable for mail-
ing, by the Merle J. Marcus Memorial Fund
of the American Jewish Archives which are
located on the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew
Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Amatus Lusitanus (Juan Rodrigo de Cas-
tel-Branco) was a Portuguese Jewish physi-
cian and scientist who fled from his native
country to escape the Inquisition. He was
called in as a consultant during the illness
of Pope Julius III. Amatus died in 1568.
The oath, originally published, in Latin, at
the end of the sixth volume of his Centuriae
(Florence, 1551), reads:
I swear by the Eternal God and by His
10 most holy commandments, which were
given on Mount Sinai through Moses as
lawgiver after the people had been freed
from their bondage in Egypt, that I have
never, at any time, done anything in these-
my treatments save what inviolate faith
handed down to posterity; that I have never
feigned anything, added anything or
changed anything for the sake of gain; that
I have always striven after this one thing,
namely, that benefit might spread forth to
mankind; that I have praised no one, and
censured no one merely to indulge in pri-
vate passions, unless zeal for truth de-
manded this. If I lie, may I incur the eter-
nal wrath of God and his angel Raphael,
and may I not succeed according to my in-
tent in any of my medical work.
Concerning the renumeration, further-
more, which is commonly given to physi-
cians, I have not been anxious for this, but'
I have treated many, and unswervingly
refused several rewards offered by many.
people; and have rather sought that the
sick might, by my care and diligence, re-
cover their lost health than that I might
become richer by their liberality. All men
have been considered equal by me of what-
ever religion they were, whether Hebrews,
Christians, or the followers of the Moslem
As concerns loftiness of station, that has
never been a matter of concern to me, and
I have accorded the same care to the poor
as to those born in exalted rank. I have
never brought about sickness; in diagnosis -
I have always said what I thought to be
I have unduly favored no vendors of
drugs, except perhaps those whom I knew
to surpass the others by reason of their .
skill in their art or because of their naturals
qualities of mind. In prescribing drugs r-
have exercised moderation in proportion
as the powers of the sick man allowed. I
have revealed to no one a secret entrusted
to me; I have given no one a fatal draught.
No woman has ever brought about an abor-
tion by my aid; nothing base has been com-
mitted by me in my house where- I was
practicing; in short, nothing has been done
by me which might be considered unbe-
coming an excellent and famous physician.
I have always held up to myself Hippo-
crates and Galen, the fathers of the medi-
cal art, as examples worthy of being fol-
lowed by me, and the records of many
other excellent men in the medical art
have not been scorned by me. In any meth-
od of studying, I have been so eager that
no task, however difficult, could lead me
away from the reading of good authors,
neither the loss of private fortune, nor
frequent journeys, nor yet exile, which, as
befits a philosopher, I have thus far borne
with calm and invincible courage. And the
many students which I have thus far had
I have always considered my sons, have
taught them very frankly, and have urged
them to strive to conduct themselves like
good men.
I have published my books on medical
matters with no desire for profit, but I
have had regard for this one thing, namely,
that I might, in some measure, provide for
the health of mankind. Whether I have
succeeded in this, I leave to the judgment
of others. At all events, I have held this
always before me, and have given it chief
place in my prayers.
Given at Thessalonica, in the year of
the world 5319 (1559).

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