Medicine at the End of the Middle Ages

Medicine at the End of the Middle Ages
In answering the question of whether medicine was better or worse at
the end of the middle ages than the beginning, I need to consider a
number of things. How healthy people generally were, what people
thought diseases were caused by, whether the public health was ever
improved, who provided the medical care and finally how illness and
infections were treated.
After looking at all the sources and considering all of the evidence given, I think that I can safely say that the public in the middle ages were not healthy people. The things which make me think this are that there was a high infant mortality and many children were dying at birth. I think that this is probably due to the lack of technology and maybe most importantly ? lack of knowledge. It is also known that Anglo-Saxons around the time of 1000?s commonly suffered from bone and joint diseases, such as rheumatism, arthritis and rickets, so I suspect that this had a large effect on the population and health of the public. It has also been proven from an excavation that most people who had survived past twenty only lived from around 40-45, and less than 10% lived to 60. I believe that a huge factor that contributed to the high illness and death rate of this time was the ?Black Death?, which killed over 40% of people in England. It wiped out almost everyone from the Devon and Somerset area because it was brought to the south across the sea and only people in villages and farms which were high up and far inland could feel any safety for their lives. However I do think that if the hadn?t been for the ?Black Death? life expectancy would have been a lot higher towards the latter parts of the middle ages. Saying this people had very different ideas as to what caused disease. I think that a few ideas were still used from 400AD, for example they used books containing the teachings of Galen and other successful doctors and some did still believe that the public health idea (brought to use by the Romans) was a factor which could cause or prevent illness, but it was mostly new theories that doctors used, and people believed. One of the most common theories (yet one of the most untrue) was the theory of planets and stars affecting people?s health. In fact this was so common that a chart commonly known as the ?Zodiac Man? was devised, which gave details about which parts of the body were affected by which stars and planets. Another theory about how illness was caused was worms. When doctors examined patient?s faeces, worms were often found and so these were connected to illness. Another person of this era the Prior of the abbey of Christchurch wrote in 1348 that, God controlled people?s health and hygiene and that illness was usually given to those who had committed, ?Numberless sins?. Guy de Chaulic who was a famous doctor of the time had two different things which he believed cause illness. One was the idea of planets and stars which I mentioned earlier, but the other was much more logical. He believed that the reason for most peoples death was blockage or bad digestion, he seems to be following the idea of ?the blocked channels? from Egyptian times but was definitely on the right lines. So I?ve discovered that some of the Roman ideas were used, but was the public health better of worse at the end of the middle ages. After studying the sources, I?ve concluded that yes public health was better, which lead to better hygiene and people leading better lifestyles. The next thing which I looked at to help making my decision was how much knowledge the doctors had and how they treat illness. Like today there were doctors who provided medical care and studied in medical schools. They would have lectures where teachers would read from the works of Galen and others. Dissection was banned by the church until the fourteenth century as they believed the body would be needed in the afterlife. Some of these doctors? practises are still in use today which proves that these doctors had good knowledge on illness. Something else which leads me to believe that doctors had good knowledge about medicine is the work which some doctors carried out. A example of this is John of Arderne, who?s methods were based on the study of anatomy and on practise, and many of his methods are still being used. No matter what the patient was diagnosed with, the treatment was usually a herbal remedy and while many of this worked well, sometimes the situation was made worse because of the surgeon?s lack of understanding. An example of this is ?bleeding?, where patients might have just a fever and looked red, doctors thought this was because patients had too much blood, and so some was drained. However, like i?ve mentioned many of the remedies were successful. Doctors often used an ingredient named plantain and according to ?Bald?s leechbook?, this substance was used in 48 different remedies, and modern analysis shows that the ingredient would have worked in 25 of the cases. Greek and Roman ideas were used again here and most remedies were designed to balance the body?s ?four humours?. There were also several ideas on how to avoid the plaque but with the high death rate I doubt whether these worked effectively. It was thought you should avoid eating or drinking too much, or if it was cold or rainy weather you should light fires. Some ideas of cures seemed ridiculous but many would do anything to help avoid the terrible plaque. For example groups of people would walk naked, whipping themselves in order to rid themselves of disease. In conclusion to the question of ?whether medicine was better or worse at the end of the middle ages than the beginning? I can say that medicine and public health was better at the end of the middle ages. I believe this because the average life expectancy increased and although some Roman and Greek ideas were used many new herbal remedies were created and these have been proven to have worked, and are still in use to this date.

Medicine at the End of the Middle Ages 9 of 10 on the basis of 1226 Review.