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This study elucidated a glimpse on ancient Mesopotamia' society social and judicial …


Biology Articles » Bioethics » Medical laws and ethics of Babylon as read in Hammurabi's code (History)

Abstract
- Medical laws and ethics of Babylon as read in Hammurabi's code (History)

Medical laws and ethics of Babylon as read in Hammurabi's code (History)

Tharwat Mohammed Halwani, Mohamad Said Maani Takrouri.

The Internet Journal of Law, Healthcare and Ethics. 2007. Volume 4 Number 2.

Abstract

Background: In principle, the human body represents a forbidden existence in nature, saved and protected against violation which may endanger life. It is in all religions and in man-made ethical and moral code of laws. It allows violating the body integrity in treatment and surgery by consent, on condition that this interference in the human body is limited specifically to those cases that would benefit Health. Hammurabi's Code of Laws was considered the first documented Code ever used by human civilization in Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, the land of Assyro-Babylonian culture. We considered to study the text to see the interface between medicine and law in the dawn of civilization.
Method: Studying the translated preserved copy of the code and review of literature in Law and medicine to indicate the relevant items which cast a light on the status of law in Ancient civilization of Babylon in Mesopotamia.
Results: There were 282 laws, dealing with all aspect of public life, citizen's rights and limits and the Babylon Kingdome's justice system. The following laws are missing: Law numbered (13) and Laws numbered (66-99 inclusive). The Code of Hammurabi described a scaled fee schedule for surgical services, which was linked to the outcome of the surgery so if not met, resulted in severe penalties, required documentation of diseases and therapies, included prescription benefits. The code fully explained patient's rights according of proclaimed King's Code.
Discussion: This study elucidated a glimpse on ancient Mesopotamia' society social and judicial order. It gives flavor of rough justice of (Eye for eye) principle. The code by its nature does not show how these laws were implemented. On the other hand due to difficulties in understanding the archeological clay tablets preserved till today did not cast light on the total picture. Hammurabi made the first declaration of human rights in history:"To cause justice to prevail in the land. . ., that the strong may not oppress the weak. . .". The practice of medicine was regulated by the state. Malpractice was recognized and was punishable by law. Hammurabi's Code of Law specified: "If a surgeon performs a major operation on an 'awelum' (nobleman), with a lancet and caused the death of this man, they shall cut off his hands". Hammurabi also specified fees for lifesaving operations: "Ten shekels of silver for 'awelum', five shekels for 'mushkenu' (poor man) and two shekels for a slave."
Conclusion: The surgical care was authoritarian; there were possibility of legal actions to insure justice and equity particular to each social class in the kingdom. The Code of Hammurabi can be considered the genesis of the current concepts of health care. There is no final answer. Human civilization continues the drive for better condition of deals committing the justice system to the echo of the society. There is no absolute solution.

 


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