Physicians Take Oath in Ruins Where Hippocrates Trained

December 1, 1995

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.

On the Greek island of Kos in the southeast Aegean, there is acypress covered hill where ancient springs flow and herbs growin abundance. People searching for good health have been comingto this hill for 25 generations. Hippocrates was born on Kos,and the hill holds the ruins of the ancient healing place, theAsclepieion.

The Asclepieion, where Hippocrates received his initial training,was temple, clinic, and university, but what remains today arethe 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 medicinehas followed ever since: history, diagnosis, prognosis, and humanetreatment. For 700 years, patients came from Egypt and Asia Minor,as well as other parts of Greece. Today's visitors to the Asclepieionsee Ionic and Corinthian columns astride three sun-bleached terracesseparated by broad marble steps (see photo).

The International Hippocratic Foundation of Kos, an organizationof 600 doctors and other academics dedicated to reminding medicineof its roots, believes that medicine may need a refresher courseon Hippocratic principles.

Of special concern to some members is that people are tinkeringwith the Hippocratic Oath. Not all medical graduates take theHippocratic Oath as written. Some are using edited versions; othersprefer to take the Oath of Maimonides or the Oath of the Councilof 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 andDentistry of New Jersey, is the US delegate to the Foundation.

"They say the oath is not contemporary and is not relevantto today's ethical dilemmas. But the oath is a document that transcendstime," Dr. Moschos said, adding that many physicians fromGreece and around the world choose to take their oaths at Kos(see photo).

Medical Olympiad Planned

The Foundation is building a conference center in Kos and hopesto create a "medical think tank" to which physiciansfrom around the world will come to debate medical issues and applyHippocratic standards, said Spyros G. Marketos, MD, presidentof the Foundation and professor of medical history, Athens University.Starting next August, and every 4 years thereafter, the Foundationwill sponsor an International Medical Olympiad. In 1996, it willbe the introductory event to the 35th International Congress onthe History of Medicine.