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Who first attempted to regulate medicine?

With 282 laws, the Code of Hammurabi affected all areas of life in ancient Mesopotamia, including proper medical care and practices

Diorite stela inscribed with the laws of King Hammurabi of Babylon, around 3,800 years ago. Hammurabi sits enthroned at top of the stela. (Photo by Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images)
Published: December 12, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Medicine in the Bronze Age may have been infused with superstition – with the gods playing a key part, as in other civilisations before and since – but professional doctors were expected to maintain high standards of care.


In one of the world’s first codes of law, issued by King Hammurabi of Babylon around 3,800 years ago, doctors were punished if their treatments caused harm.

Depending on the severity of the malpractice, a surgeon could lose his fingers or hands, or they could be branded, executed, or, more commonly, made to pay compensation.

Moreover, the laws stipulated standardised prices tariffs for operations, with the rich paying more on a sliding scale, and the poor getting free medication provided by the state.

Answered by one of our Q&A experts, Greg Jenner


This article was taken from the Christmas 2015 issue of BBC History Revealed


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