Medscape has surveyed more than 2,600 physicians and 134 medical students since last November on the subject, finding stark differences in opinions of the oath based on age. For example, 70 percent of physicians ages 65 and older said the Hippocratic Oath was very meaningful to them, compared to 39 percent of physicians under age 34. And 64 percent of physicians ages 65 and older reported they recited the Hippocratic Oath in its original form, compared to 39 percent of physicians under age 34.
However, the poll indicates roughly similar proportions of physicians and medical students are still taking some form of oath. Only slightly more medical students reported taking no oath at all (19 percent) compared to physicians ages 65 and older (17 percent) and physicians 34 and younger (14 percent). Instead, younger physicians and medical students appear to be more split among alternative pledges. Medical students and millennial physicians under age 34 are much more likely to recite an oath written by medical school faculty (19 percent and 17 percent, respectively) than their older counterparts over age 65 (4 percent). Similarly, the Declaration of Geneva — a modern revision of the Hippocratic Oath adopted by the General Assembly of the World Medical Association after World War II — and the oath by Louis Lasagna, MD, a clinically renowned pharmacology expert who penned his own revision in 1964, have started to gain momentum among younger physicians and medical students, according to the poll.
Younger physicians may have less faith in the Hippocratic Oath, which has a patient focus, because they feel it no longer holds in today’s healthcare environment in which many needs compete for their attention. According to the poll, only 12 percent of physicians under age 34 said they were always able to put patients first, compared to 40 percent of physicians age 65 and older. Many younger physicians also indicated they felt the oath’s patient focus added to burnout. Forty-seven percent of physicians ages 34 and under felt the oath contributes to burnout compared to 27 percent of those over age 65, according to the report.