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Doctors rewrite Hippocratic oath

The British Medical Association has updated the Hippocratic Oath, the doctors' 2,500-year-old ethical code.

The new version, drawn up over the past year by the BMA for the World Medical Association, handles some of the more contentious issues of medical ethics. It says: "Where abortion is permitted, I agree that it should take place only within an ethical and legal framework."

On the subject of treating the terminally ill, it permits doctors to consider the quality of people's lives.

Doctors will swear to "recognise the special value of human life but I also know that the prolongation of human life is not the only aim of health care."

In both cases the new oath focuses on confidentiality and respect for patients.

The BMA has been campaigning for the past five years for a revision of the oath, gathering examples of ethical codes from around the world.