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

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

General historians consider that the world civilization, started along the major rivers of what is called today The Middle East. Nile valley, Euphrates and Tigris in the land of Mesopotamia were harboring the ancient cultures 4000-5000 years ago.[1,2] The oldest medical writings are found in cuneiform tablets, which are known as the oldest medical handbook. It is believed that it was written by an anonymous Sumerian Physician, who lived presumably near the end of the third millennium B.C. He recorded a collection of his valuable prescriptions. In a cuneiform scripts he wrote down more than dozen of his favorite remedies. This is the oldest medical handbook known to man and was found buried in the Nuppur ruins for more than 4000 years.[3] Hammurabi reigns between (1795-1750 BC). He was the ruler who established the greatness of Babylon. His code of laws is largely considered the earliest-known example of code announced to the public. It was arranged in orderly groups of topics. The code was carved upon a black stone monument (found in the year 1901) in Susa, Iran. It is eight feet high and clearly intended to be demonstrated in public view. It begins and ends with addresses to the gods. It is filled with prayers cursing whoever shall neglect or destroy the law [4, 5, 6, 7 ,8]. See (Fig 1). The text of the code of laws was obtained and compared from these sources [5, 6, 7 , 8].

The code regulates, in clear and definite statements, the organization of society order [4, 5]. The judge who blunders in a law case is to be expelled from his judgeship forever, and heavily fined. The witness who testifies falsely is to be slain. Indeed, all the heavier crimes are made punishable with death. Even if a man builds a house badly, and it falls and kills the owner, the builder is to be slain. If the owner's son was killed, then the builder's son is slain. It is the law of “an eye for an eye.” These grim retaliatory punishments take no note of excuses or explanations, but only of the fact--with one striking exception. An accused person was allowed to cast himself into “the river,” the Euphrates for if the current bore him to the shore alive he was declared innocent, if he drowned he was guilty. So we learn that faith in the justice of the ruling Gods was already established in the minds of men [5]. The Code of Hammurabi was one of many sets of laws in the Ancient Middle East. Most of these codes, coming from similar cultures and racial groups in a relatively small geographical area, necessarily have passages that resemble each other. The earlier code of Ur-Nammu, of the Ur-III dynasty (21st century BC), the Hittite code of laws (ca. 1300 BC), and Mosaic Law (traditionally ca. 1200 BC under Moses), all contain statutes that bear at least passing resemblance to those in the Code of Hammurabi and other codices from the same geographic area. [4, 5, 6, 7 ,8]

In this paper we are looking to the items regulating the practice of medicine in that time and see if regulations reached the medical practice of the ancient society of Babylon.


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