It is often assumed that practical advances, once secured, will be easily maintained, and, indeed, that the law of progress is practically automatic and irreversible in its workings. That this is not true may be readily appreciated from two half-forgotten chapters in medical history recently recalled to the mind of the medical profession of to-day.
The law of Frederick II of Germany, for the regulation of the practice of medicine1—which is, so far as known, the earliest modern law on that subject—proves that before the middle of the thirteenth century many recently secured or perhaps still unattained improvements in the regulation of medical practice had been anticipated on the statute-books of the Two Sicilies. Four years of medical study, three years of preliminary education, a year with a physician before regular practice might begin—all this was required for the honor and dignity of the medical profession nearly seven centuries ago. At the same time many abuses in the relations of physicians and druggists were regulated, and the purity of drugs was secured by enactment.
THE ADVANCE AND RETREAT OF MEDICAL STANDARDS.. JAMA. 2008;300(22):2680. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.710
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