Declaration of Geneva revisions highlight patient autonomy, physician well-being

The newly revised Declaration of Geneva, released in October, contains wording tweaks throughout but also three entirely new clauses:

  • I WILL RESPECT the autonomy and dignity of my patient.
  • I WILL SHARE my medical knowledge for the benefit of the patient and the advancement of healthcare.
  • I WILL ATTEND TO my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.

The last revision of the document informally referred to as the “Physician’s Oath” was made in 2006. As Ramin Walter Parsa-Parsi, MD, MPH, points out in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Declaration of Geneva lagged behind other ethical documents in recognizing patient autonomy.

Therefore, the 2017 version added a clause about patient autonomy and moved “all new and existing paragraphs focused on patients’ rights to the beginning of the document,” wrote Parsa-Parsi, the chair of the World Medical Association Declaration of Geneva workgroup.

Another noteworthy new clause—about physician self-care—can be tied to the growing awareness of burnout and its effects.

“A reevaluation of how the professional obligations of physicians are represented in the Declaration of Geneva would not be complete without considering increasing workload, occupational stress, and the potential adverse effects these factors can have on physicians, their health, and their ability to provide care of the highest standard,” Parsa-Parsi wrote. “This clause reflects not only the humanity of physicians, but also the role physician self-care can play in improving patient care.”