First, do no harm

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

It’s a common belief that all physicians swear to uphold the Hippocratic Oath and its critical dictum, “first, do no harm.” In fact, the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t include this promise — and many fledgling doctors do not take this oath (or any oath). What’s more, “do no harm” isn’t always a realistic goal in the day-to-day practice of medicine. However, it is an important reminder that we need to learn more about the risks and benefits of any treatment, and to use this information wisely.