Law and healing

A history of a stormy marriage

Author:
Margaret Brazier
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Law and healing is a colourful and critical account of the longstanding ‘marriage’ between two fundamental pillars of human society, law and medicine. The book addresses medico-legal history, exploring aspects of English law’s fascinating and sometimes acrimonious relationship with healing and healers. It challenges assumptions that medical law is new and that when law engaged with medicine, judges deferred to the ‘medical man’. It traces the regulation of healing from the dominance of the Church, and goes on to examine how the battles between different groups of lay ‘doctors’, physicians, surgeons and apothecaries were fought out in the law courts, the Royal Court and Parliament. Malpractice litigation and predictions of malpractice crises are shown to date back to the fourteenth century. Evidence of judicial deference is scant until late in the nineteenth century. Medical law today addresses moral dilemmas arising in medical practice and biomedical science. Considering historical perceptions of the human body from the womb to the grave, this work identifies themes persisting through medico-legal history and how history repeats itself. The book assesses both how English law responded to changes in ‘scientific’ understanding of bodies and how ‘science’, or what was thought to be science, influenced law. Bizarre theories about biology are seen to buttress laws of primogeniture and legal incapacities imposed on married women. The book considers how in the nineteenth century medical practitioners gradually acquired a strong voice in law-making on morals as much as medical practice.

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