On the Greek island of Kos in the southeast Aegean, there is a cypress covered hill where ancient springs flow and herbs grow in abundance. People searching for good health have been coming to this hill for 25 generations. Hippocrates was born on Kos, and the hill holds the ruins of the ancient healing place, the Asclepieion.
The Asclepieion, where Hippocrates received his initial training, was temple, clinic, and university, but what remains today are the ruins of a grander complex, built several years after Hippocrates' death in the mid-4th century BC.
Physicians at the Asclepieion used the Hippocratic methods medicine has followed ever since: history, diagnosis, prognosis, and humane treatment. For 700 years, patients came from Egypt and Asia Minor, as well as other parts of Greece. Today's visitors to the Asclepieion see Ionic and Corinthian columns astride three sun-bleached terraces separated by broad marble steps (see photo).
The International Hippocratic Foundation of Kos, an organization of 600 doctors and other academics dedicated to reminding medicine of its roots, believes that medicine may need a refresher course on Hippocratic principles.
Of special concern to some members is that people are tinkering with the Hippocratic Oath. Not all medical graduates take the Hippocratic Oath as written. Some are using edited versions; others prefer to take the Oath of Maimonides or the Oath of the Council of Geneva.
"Many people today dispute the use of the Hippocratic Oath," Christos B. Moschos, MD, told Oncology News International. Dr. Moschos, professor of medicine, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, is the US delegate to the Foundation.
"They say the oath is not contemporary and is not relevant to today's ethical dilemmas. But the oath is a document that transcends time," Dr. Moschos said, adding that many physicians from Greece and around the world choose to take their oaths at Kos (see photo).