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The Promise of the Catholic Doctor - A Catholic 'Hippocratic oath'

Approved by the Executive Committee of FIAMC and by the Pontifical Council of the Pastoral for Healthcare Workers

I ....................................... Medical Doctor, solemnly promise:

  1. To continually improve my professional abilities, in order to give my patients the best care I can.
  2. To respect my patients as human persons, putting their interests ahead of political and economic consideration, and to treat them without prejudice arising from religious, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, or sexual differences.
  3. To defend and protect human life from conception to its natural end, believing that human life, transmitted by parents, is created by God and has an eternal destiny that belongs to Him.
  4. To refuse to become an instrument of violent or oppressive applications of medicine.
  5. To serve the public health, promoting health policies respectful of life and of the dignity and nature of the human person.
  6. To cooperate with the application of just laws, except on grounds of conscientious objection when the civil law does not respect human rights, especially the right to life.
  7. To work with openness towards every person, independently of their religious beliefs.
  8. To donate part of my time for free and charitable care of the poor.

In order to achieve these goals, as a Catholic Doctor, I also promise:

  1. To recognize the Word of God as the inspiration of all my actions, to be faithful to the teachings of the Church, and to form my professional conscience in accord with them.
  2. To cultivate a filial relationship with God, nourished by prayer, and to be a faithful witness of Christ.
  3. To practice Catholic moral principles, in particular those related to bio-medical ethics.
  4. To express the benevolence of Christ in my life, and in my relationships with patients, colleagues, and society.
  5. To participate in evangelization of the suffering world, in co-operation with the pastoral ministry of the Church.

Explanatory Notes on the above Promise

During its meeting held in Rome (15th March 1997), the Executive Committee of FIAMC approved the text of a Promise, to be proposed to the catholic doctors of every country and, hopefully to other doctors of good will.

The Promise includes 13 statements that can be divided in two parts. The first part groups 8 engagements that can be shared by non catholic doctors too, as long as they are moved by a sincere spirit of service to the suffering man and by a firm faith in the value of human life. The second part, instead, contains 5 more pledges that can be specifically proposed only to doctors professing the Catholic Faith. The reasons that urge FIAMC to elaborate this document can be easily summarized.

In a moment in which the deontologic codes of our profession are revised and in which the Hippocratic oath itself is being questioned, it appeared important to reaffirm the permanent values upon which the dignity of our profession is founded. The ethical and deontological debate is a topic of discussion among catholic doctors themselves, who sometimes wonder if their traditional beliefs are still valid.

Certainly, there is an abundant and authoritative Magisterium concerning the dignity of the medical profession, the values that must inspire it, the duties deriving from it. Recently, the Pontifical Council of the Pastoral for Health Care Workers published an important Charter of the Health Workers. However, a simple, agile and short text, able to offer certain and immediate orientation in dealing with the dilemmas that our profession often presents to us was lacking. It is partly for this reason that even meetings of Catholic Doctors such as International Congresses have ended in animated debates on unresolved problems.

The Promise does not enunciate judgments, preferring positive statements instead. It does not restrict its visual field in underlining the duties of a doctor towards the single patient, but calls him to consider his social responsibility and to cooperate openly and generously with the bodies that regulate our civil society, provided the duty to disobey laws disrespectful of the fundamental human rights or of the even more fundamental rights of God has been preserved.

A last comment regards the work methodology, by which we reached the approval of the Promise. After a first draft prepared by two people, the text was sent to all the National Associations of Catholic Doctors federated in FIAMC. Many of them discussed it and several sent back comments and suggestions (from the United Sates to Thailand, from Nigeria to the UK., from Australia to Italy). Each one of them was discussed by the Executive Committee and by the Ecclesiastical Assistant. Finally, the text was presented to the Pontifical Council of the Pastoral for Health Care Workers for its approval.

It is now being proposed in a spirit of dialogue, to catholic doctors (sometimes divided by the conditioning of the dominant culture), along with doctors of other Christian Churches, and to all the doctors who love man and respect life.

We hope that the Promise will receive wide attention and diffusion, that it will be accepted by the individual National Associations federated in FIAMC and proposed to their members. It will be the basis of discussion at our Congresses and the common denominator of our presence in FIAMC, surpassing the differences due to local orientations. Above all, we hope that, starting from this common premise, we all feel committed to build a more profound ethical dimension of medicine and to take part in the new evangelization of health, in accordance with the indications of our last World Congress (Porto, 1994).

Gian Luigi Gigli, MD
Secretary General of FIAMC