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  • Aaron Zelman

The Hippocratic Oath of Insurance Advice

The phrase ‘First, do no harm’ is attributed to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates but it is not actually part of the Hippocratic Oath. Nevertheless, the relevance of that phrase is worthy of consideration for insurance advisers entrusted to improve outcomes for their clients in a complex landscape.


After all, policy definitions range from favourable to downright detrimental. Prices across providers (and even within a single provider’s offerings) can vary dramatically between excellent and atrocious value for money. Navigating an underwriting process and in some cases, a claims process will be made incredibly challenging when a person’s medical or financial history is relatively complex. This is before you factor in the minefield of taxation and legislative considerations at play.



What would the Hippocratic Oath mean for Life Insurance advisers?


In short, a professional adviser has a lot to consider when acting for a client. As in medicine, it is not always apparent what the right course of action is or the right ‘product solution’ (ie, medical treatment). This is why the ‘first, do no harm’ dictum is so incredibly important. There are often very good reasons for a person to maintain their current polices and this needs to be considered every time one is providing advice. ‘First, do no harm’ can simply mean do not make things worse even when there is an apparent incentive to change things (such as a cheaper premium).


At the same time, one cannot be paralysed into inaction simply to follow that dictum absolutely. Sometimes the right course of action requires some creative destruction or the taking of certain risks in order to obtain certain (expected) benefits. While it is not call for a black and white approach, it is important to take a level headed approach and minimise harm in all professional advice provided.