Charak Shapath instead of Hippocratic Oath Row: What is it and what does it say?


Charak Shapath UPSC: The Dean of Madurai Medical College in Tamil Nadu was removed on May 1, 2022, after a batch of new students in the college were administered an oath in Sanskrit instead of the traditional Hippocratic Oath in English.

The oath in Sanskrit was attributed to the ancient Indian Sage Maharishi Charaka. After the event which was also attended by the Finance Minister of Tamil Nadu Palanivel Thiaga Rajan and the Commercial Taxes Minister, the Dean of the college was placed on the waiting list with no information on his next posting.

Charak Shapath instead of Hippocratic Row: What is the controversy?

The controversy over Charak Shapathi instead of Hippocratic Row started after the National Medical Commission, a regulator for medical education and practices suggested to the Medical Colleges on February 7 that Hippocratic Oath should be replaced by Charak Shapath.

While some medical practitioners welcomed the proposal, the Indian Medical Association took up the matter with Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. IMA’s National President Dr. Sahajanand Prasad Singh also said that the Health Minister has assured that Charak Shapath will be optional and it will not be forced to replace the Hippocratic Oath.

However, on March 31, 2022, the National Medical Commission issued a circular on the implementation of New Competency-Based Medical Education for Undergraduate Course Curriculum’ in which it mentioned that Modified Maharishi Charak Shapath is being recommended when a candidate is introduced to medical education.

Notably, AIIMS has been taking the Charak Oath during their annual convocation for several years now.

What does Hippocratic Oath Say?

The Hippocratic Oath, as per the extracts published in BMJ, October 1998 says:

“I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but I will never use it to injure or wrong them.

I will never give poison to anyone though asked to do so, not will I suggest such a plan. Similarly, I will not give a pessary to a woman to cause abortion. But in purity and in holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife either on sufferers from stone, but I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein.

Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will do so to help the sick, keeping myself free from all the intentional wrongdoing and harm, especially from fornication with woman or man, bond or free.

Whatsoever in the course of practice I see or hear (or even outside my practice in social intercourse) that ought never to be published abroad, I will not divulge, but consider such things to be holy secret.”

What is Charak Shapath and what does it say?

Like several other sages, the historicity of Charaka is uncertain. The Charak Samhita is a medical pharmacopeia and the collection of commentaries and discussions on the medical practices that are historically dated to the 1st-2nd Centuries AD.

As a physician was an important and the respected member of the ancient Indian Society, the quotes from part of the sermon that Charaka instructs the physician to preach to his pupils at a ceremony at the end of their apprenticeship states:

“…You must strive with all your soul for the health of the sick. You must not betray your patients, even at the cost of your own life…You must not get drunk, or commit evil, or have evil companions…You must be pleasant of speech…and thoughtful, always striving to improve your knowledge.

When you go to the home of a patient you should direct your words, mind, intellect, and senses nowhere but to your patient and his treatment…Nothing that happens in the house of a sick man must be told outside, not must the patient’s condition be told to anyone who might do harm by that knowledge to the patient or to another.”

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