Medical graduates in Turkey defied university authorities last week by taking the original Hippocratic Oath despite an explicit prohibition.
The authorities at the Faculty of Medicine, Selcuk University in the city of Konya asked graduates to take a modified version of the Hippocratic Oath that did not mention sexual orientation and ethnicity.
Graduates rebelled by reading enthusiastically the original Oath, leading the authorities to turn off the lights during the ceremony. Using their cell phones, the young Turks continued sending a message of defiance to the conservative academic circles.
In a statement on its social media account, the Turkish Medical Association hailed the graduates saying: “We are proud of our young colleagues who, despite the pressure, persistently defend the oath of medicine and its universal values.”
The Hippocratic Oath under fire in Turkey
Several medical schools in Turkey have censored the Hippocratic Oath recently. Last year, İnönü University Rector Ahmet Kızılay described it as “perverse,” according to a report in Ahval News.
He had announced that the school of medicine would revise the ancient text to “protect social and family values.”
Kızılay said the current version of the oath was used as a vehicle to spread “certain ideological viewpoints.”
Physicians already promise to serve without discrimination, Kızılay said, adding, “The purpose of the Hippocratic Oath is for physicians to promise that they will conduct their profession with sacrifice.”
The oath citing sexual orientation “knowingly and needlessly”, he said, constitutes “an attempt to corrode and even corrupt our social and family values as a whole”.
Kızılay also said that scholars who favored the current version would face an investigation in the university.
In June 2021, the Sakarya University Faculty of Medicine removed the phrase to “not discriminate based on sex, ethnicity or sexual orientation” from its oath, according to a report by Cumhuriyet newspaper.
As it stands, the Declaration of Geneva, also known as the Modern Hippocratic Oath, includes the phrase, “I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient.”
The mention of sexual orientation and gender identity was also a major point of objection by some among Turkey’s conservative circles throughout last year’s debates on whether the country should leave the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention.
Turkey withdrew from the convention by an executive order signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 19, 2021.