Medical Association unsure oath change will make a difference

A Kiwi's amendment to the modern Hippocratic Oath sworn by all doctors has been adopted unanimously by the World Medical Association.

The change suggested by Sam Hazledine went through in Chicago on Sunday morning (NZ time) and means doctors get to prioritise their own health alongside that of their patients.

Stress and burnout for New Zealand doctors is a big issue, with research showing across most medical sectors, burnout rates sit above 50 percent.

Doctors are leaving the profession and doctor suicide is on the rise. Queenstown resident Dr Hazledine wanted to do something about it.

"I've done a lot of work over the past few years in the space of doctor health and wellbeing," he tells Newshub.

The Declaration of Geneva is used by physicians across the world and is regarded as a modern version of the Hippocratic Oath. That's where Dr Hazledine set his sights.

"About two years ago I noticed that in the Declaration of Geneva, which is essential our value set as doctors, there was no mention of the health and wellbeing of doctors. It was all about the patient."

The clause he wanted added was: "I will attend to my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard."

And on Sunday morning in Chicago, Dr Hazledine witnessed as it was successfully voted in.

"I was thrilled to see it. I was hopeful. I was confident that we were going to get it passed.

"I was hopeful it was going to be unanimous, and when it was unanimous, it sent chills down my spine."

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) says burnout is an issue in New Zealand, but it's not sure this will have a tangible impact on the frontline.

"It takes much more than this," NZMA deputy chair and cardiologist Professor Harvey White tells Newshub.

"The Declaration of Geneva is an aspirational document; it replaces the Hippocratic Oath, which is 2500 years old."

But Dr Hazledine says this is a big step forward and will have tangible benefits.

"The burnout leads to depersonalisation, which is an emotional disconnection from patients, and that leads to an increase in major medical errors."

He hopes now that it's on the global stage, it will have an effect in New Zealand.

"In terms of your DHBs, royal colleges... [we'll be] moving beyond talking about doctor stress and burnout to implementing real solutions to what is a major problem."