Reddit Post – Does being an atheist matter as a Doctor?

I am preparing myself for med school interviews and one of the major points of interest from my coach is my atheism. Now, you should know that I live in a conservative South American country. I’ve been told that the interviewers can ask me about my religious views and how this affects my views. Many doctors here believe strongly in God being your guide in decisions.

The very conservative nature of my country has meant that my coach has recommended me to be against euthanasia and abortion at all costs. My question is on your interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath, which translation do you use and does being atheist affect that interpretation?

Secondly, have you found difficulty in gaining understanding from your professors on this matter, if it has mattered at all?

From Reddit, here’s the OP. It’s a shame there are only two messages there though…

So I got a response and in retrospect I can expand on what I wrote on Reddit and make a few corrections

I am very very nearly a doctor and a staunch and open atheist. I have until Feb 2014 to be a student and I am currently preparing for exams.

There is the notion that we are incapable of being moral and particularly within a conservative society it is hard to appear moral when the values of morality are so warped. We aren’t disapproving of the GLBT and we think it’s a woman’s right to control her own reproductive cycle.

The Hippocratic Oath is flawed inherently. It’s a 2000 year old oath that we only use because it’s a piece of History.

Quite a few things that are rather out of date

Do you know it’s illegal for women to be doctors? That the children of doctors must get special preferences? That you don’t do abortions.

The Oath is a historical curio that we stopped following especially when you consider that surgeons are doctors rather than barbers these days!

I would lie. I would honestly lie if I was in your situation. I know that you may be considering the truth but I think that they may discriminate against your lack of religion.

That being said, if you are sure about your open stance then do so. Say that morality makes you a humanist and that means putting your patient first. And that the doctor’s oath is not to the gods but to patients they treat.

As for Euthanasia? I will say this. I work in a third world nation but I am from the UK. I will be a doctor in February and I work in some of the poorest parts of India. There is no dying with dignity. I have yet to see someone die in a dignified way. There is living with it though. If suffering gets to the point where it’s untenable then what’s the difference between shortening a patient’s life with pain meds and euthanasia? Merely the speed of onset of death.

With regards to Abortion? I am incredibly pro-abortion and think that in a society of well educated people with plentiful access to cheap contraception you would see a control of abortion.

Again India helped me understand this. If you have food for four people and there are five, it is not on person that will starve but five.

Many of the people who taught me never understood me but many realised that being an atheist doesn’t mean you eat babies. It is a slower change and you may find it an incredibly uphill battle.


  1. Al Dente says

    being an atheist doesn’t mean you eat babies

    You mean it’s optional? Now you tell us.

    Seriously, the Hippocratic oath was meant for a different culture existing thousands of years ago. How many followers do Apollo, Asclepius, Hygeia and Panacea have these days? The only time I’ve run across Hygeia’s name is in Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary:

    Hygeia, p.n. In Grecian mythology the goddess of health–the only one of the goddesses whom it was healthy to have anything to do with.

  2. says

    In the United States, at least, few medical schools use the original Oath (or a translation of it.) More common is the Declaration of Geneva. The version currently promoted by the World Medical Association includes, among other lines, “The health of my patient will be my first consideration” and “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.”

    Most schools use a modified, much more modern version of the Oath, an example of which can be found at


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