15 Oct 2017

NZ doctor's Hippocratic Oath change passed

8:27 am on 15 October 2017

A New Zealand doctor's amendment to the modern Hippocratic Oath sworn by all doctors has been ratified unanimously by the World Medical Association.

Sam Hazledine.Sam Hazledine.

Sam Hazledine pushed for change after noticing widespread burn-out in his profession Photo: Supplied

Queenstown doctor Sam Hazledine's change allows doctors to prioritise their own health as well as that of their patient.

The Physician's Oath, first adopted in 1948, is a modern version of the ancient Hippocratic Oath and is the vow read out by doctors when they qualify.

The amendment, passed in Chicago early on Sunday morning NZT, adds the clause: "I will attend to my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard."

Until now, the declaration has had no provision relating to self-care.

Speaking from Chicago, Dr Hazeldine told RNZ's Sunday Morning the motion passed unanimously and received a standing ovation.

Dr Hazledine, who quit practising medicine to found a medical recruitment agency, pressed for the change after becoming concerned about burn-out in the profession.

Half of all New Zealand GPs have said in surveys they are either burnt-out or approaching it.

Suicide rates among doctors were climbing, Dr Hazeldine said.

"Doctors are really struggling... There are a lot of factors that contribute to that and one of the main things is just the reality of medicine and the responsibility we have."

The amendment came about after Dr Hazledine presented a petition requesting a change to the association a year ago, signed by 4500 Australasian doctors.

He told RNZ earlier this week that doctors have always put patient care first, "and that shouldn't change".

"But the problem if we've said patient care comes first ... it's almost like, and therefore, I don't matter."

Research had shown stress and burn-out also led to depersonalisation and an emotional disconnection from patients.

"So despite 'first, do no harm' being the core principal of our profession, the way we're being as doctors - in the majority of us - is actually causing us to harm our patients," Dr Hazledine told Nine to Noon.

The New Zealand College of General Practioners said the amendment was much needed.

College medical director Richard Medlicott said traditionally New Zealand doctors have put their own health on the back burner.

They worked hard, expected perfection from themselves and the stress caused burn out, he said.

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