“Thou shall lose a hand and thou shall replace a slave for thy failure to cure”

~ King Hammurabi (The Kinsman Healer, 3800-3760 years back)

#2 The story of King Hammurabi and his code of inequality in accountability

King Hammurabi was a ruler of Babylon. Some 3800-3760 years ago. His codes on various aspects of social life, ethics and codes live to this day. As an emperor’s decree to his citizens. These “Law codes” in cuneiform script are written on a pillar of diorite stone. And have few pronouncements on medical care.

Physicians and healers were made accountable. Reward for cure. Punishment for failure.

The life of a noble saved. Gift of a bronze lancet. Worth ten times the annual pay of a tradesman.

The life of a noble saved. 1/5 the price of saving the life of a noble.

However, if the life of a wealthy map was unfortunately lost under the scalpel of a surgeon, the hand of the surgeon would be sacrificed too.

If a slave’s life lost, the lost slave had to be replaced by another slave.

One is however baffled that the Hammurabi Code and its record of treatment speaks of the “surgeon’s” surgical procedures at length but does not speak of the “physician’s” healing.

And therein lies perhaps the story of evolution of our scientific thinking. For surgery involved wounds and accidents. That were visible as they were inflicted. Acts of human. Acts of accidents.

But for diseases otherwise, they were caused by spirits evil and sins. And were out of bounds for a mere mortal, the Physician.

Acknowledgement: A Short History of Medicine by Steve Parker; National Geography; Art History Summarize

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