Letters to the Editor
My coauthors and I are grateful to Dr. Halperin for correctly pointing out in his letter the provenance of the oath attributed to Maimonides.
The earliest text of an oath attributed to Hippocrates dates to several centuries after his death and is written in a dialect of Greek different from what was spoken on Hippocrates’s island of Cos. The original may have been written by Hippocrates, but we cannot know this.1 We can be more sure that the prayer and oath attributed to Maimonides were likely written by Marcus Hertz, a physician and student of Immanuel Kant six centuries removed from the time of Maimonides.1
Most oaths are either specific to individual schools, rewritten by graduands each year, or credited to two individuals who cannot be shown to have written them (or, in the case of the Geneva Declaration, presumably written by a committee). Thus, the only oath currently in use which we can verify was written by the person credited is that of Dr. Louis Lasagna, used by 5% of schools.2
Steven J. Scheinman, MD
President and dean, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, Scranton, Pennsylvania; Sscheinman@som.geisinger.edu.
1. Nutton V. What’s in an oath? J R Coll Physicians Lond. 1995;29:518–524.
2. Scheinman SJ, Fleming P, Niotis K. Oath taking at U.S. and Canadian medical school ceremonies: Historical perspectives, current practices, and future considerations. Acad Med. 2018;93:1301–1306.