Hippocratic vs. Judeo-Christian Medical Ethics: Principles in Conflict

Journal of Religious Ethics 15 (1):86-105 (1987)
It is widely presumed, at least among typical Western physicians and medical lay persons, that the Hippocratic and the Judeo- Christian traditions in medical ethics are closely connected or at least compatible. We examine the historical, metaethical, and normative relationships between them, and we find virtually no evidence of any historical links prior to the ninth century. In fact, important differences between them are found. The Hippocratic Oath appears to reflect the environment of a Greek mystery cult. It includes a commitment to secrecy and a sense of community alien to Judeo- Christian tradition. Differences between the two traditions on the issues of killing and life prolongation, abortion, surgery, and normative ethical principles including truth-telling, autonomy, and justice are also explored. We conclude that important differences not only exist but also raise serious problems for persons identifying with both traditions
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