Margaret Brazier
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Medical brethren
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Chapter 2 addresses the presence of a third party in the marriage of law and healing, the Church, exploring the relationship between three key actors in the formulation of law relating to healing, the Church, Parliament and medical practitioners. The chapter outlines how, before the Reformation, the Church in Rome enacted rules in canon law regulating healers. It identifies the enduring influence of canon law on the organisation and regulation of medical practice. The prohibition on practising surgery imposed on most clerics by the Lateran Council 1215 is discussed as a prime example of such influence, driving surgery out of the monasteries and contributing to the development of the tripartite division of physicians, surgeons and apothecaries. The role of the Church as the principal provider of healing free of charge in the monastic hospitals is analysed. As more laymen began to practise, and the monastic hospitals declined, pressure to reform regulation grew. An attempt to establish a nationwide system enforced by the King’s officers, the Sheriffs, failed in the chaos following the death of Henry V. In 1511 the Crown intervened to create a national system to regulate physic and surgery endorsed by Parliament in the Act ‘for the Appointment of Physicians and Surgeons’. The Church did not disappear from engagement with healing – it became a regulator. The 1511 Act entrusted implementation of the licensing process to the bishops.

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Law and healing

A history of a stormy marriage


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