Medical and professional ethics in sixteenth-century Istanbul: Towards an understanding of the relationships between the Ottoman state and the medical guilds

Miri Shefer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper contributes to the understanding of Ottoman medical guilds, their relationship with the government, and the role played by medical ethics in this framework. Decrees by the sultans (sing. fermãn), issued in the Ottoman Imperial Council (Divãn) in Istanbul during the sixteenth century, concern themselves also with medical and ethical issues. The sheer number of these decrees may give the erroneous impression that the quality of medicine in the Ottoman Empire was low. This paper argues, however, that many of the complaints brought before the Ottoman authorities were instigated by medical guilds' members against their colleagues and competitors, not by aggravated patients demanding compensation from negligent healers. The discourse of medical ethics was raised in these cases not for its own sake, rather it embodied efforts by medical guild members to defend their economic interests and their intellectual and social status in the brutal competition in the medical realm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-319
Number of pages13
JournalMedicine and Law
Volume21
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002

Keywords

  • Istanbul
  • Medical guilds
  • Ottoman history
  • Sixteenth century

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