Acupuncturist's Oath

Someone asked me recently if acupuncturists take the Hippocratic Oath like Western Medical doctors do. Many things Hippocrates wrote show how much the roots of Western medicine resemble traditional medicine. For instance, "It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has."

But instead of taking the Hippocratic oath, at our graduation from the Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine College with our Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine (MSOM), we took Sun Si Miao's Oath of the Great Physician.

The Acupuncturists' Oath reads:

I promise to follow the way of the Great Physician, to live in harmony with nature, and to teach my patients to do the same.

I will strive to maintain a clear mind and hold myself to the highest standards.

I shall look upon those who are in grief as though I myself have been afflicted, and I will respond with empathy.

I shall develop an attitude of compassion, of benevolence, and of care for all patients, regardless of their particular circumstances.

I promise to perform my responsibilities carefully, thoughtfully, and to the best of my ability.

Above all, I will maintain a peaceful presence and an open heart.

Based on the Oath of Sun Si Miao (c. 581-682), whose code is considered to be the foundation of Chinese medical ethics.

Photo of Shawna at the new Tianjin Hospital in China in front of Sun Si Miao's Oath

For comparison's sake, here is the modern Hippocratic Oath, written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used by many medical schools today. (source)

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.


Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Photo: Unsplash