I solemnly pledge to dedicate my life to the service of humanity;
The health and well-being of my patient will be my first consideration;
I will respect the autonomy and dignity of my patient;
I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;
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;
I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity and in accordance with good medical practice;
I will foster the honor and noble traditions of the medical profession;
I will give to my teachers, colleagues, and students the respect and gratitude that is their due;
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;
I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
I make these promises solemnly, freely, and upon my honor.
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These words are the Physician’s Pledge of the Declaration of Geneva. This pledge is taken twice by each medical student at the SIU School of Medicine, once at the beginning of training and once at graduation. In the past year, this pledge was taken by the graduating class of 2021, by the newest class of 2025, and by the class of 2024 – COVID delayed!
The pledge defines the obligations that doctors have to their patients, to others and to themselves. Some of these are universal obligations that apply to all of us, like this one: “I will attend to my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.” The COVID-19 pandemic confers on each individual a special standard of responsibility to themselves and to others to properly act on rapidly changing new information. The COVID crisis gives each of us great opportunity to fulfill this obligation.
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Consider the most recent information about COVID-19 infections:
* Monoclonal antibody treatment of infected individuals reduces infections in household contacts by 73 to 93 percent. That is a family fact.
* Pregnant women infected with COVIC-19 are 22 times more likely to die than pregnant women not infected with COVID-19. In other words, COVID-19 infection increases maternal mortality by 2100 percent. For their infants, severe illness and death are tripled. Pregnant women should receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
* For the delta variant of COVID-19, serious illness is reduced by over 90%, and death is reduced by over 99% by the COVID vaccines. COVID vaccines are proven effective.
* Following intense scrutiny and analysis of the data, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine now has full approval by the FDA. COVID-19 vaccines are proven safe.
* 5 billion (5,000,000,000) doses of COVID-19 vaccines have now been given worldwide, with no serious side effects beyond those that would be expected in an unvaccinated population. One study found that individuals are 80 times more likely to get heart inflammation with COVID infection than with the vaccine. In practice, COVID vaccines are astoundingly safe and effective.
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Each of us has obligations to others – to our family, to our community, and in our work. Let us not fail in the fulfillment of these personal obligations, which are greatly amplified in the face of COVID-19. There are good decisions to be made for ourselves and for others, for loved ones, for our communities, for our nation, for our world.
Jerry Kruse, MD, MSPH, is dean and provost, SIU School of Medicine and CEO, SIU Medicine.