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February 20, 1960

Jewish Medical Ethics: A Comparative and Historical Study of Jewish Religious Attitude to Medicine and Its Practice

JAMA. 1960;172(8):881-882. doi:10.1001/jama.1960.03020080111033

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For all the years that man has been on earth, disease has been one of his chief enemies. Every culture has shown a lively interest in the healing arts. Elements of magical, demoniacal, and rule-of-thumb practices are common to all of them. The nature of the culture determines some attitudes. The Greeks, for instance, believed that illness marred the perfection of "whole man" and was thus a misfortune or a catastrophe. The Jews, while they shared the common experience of primitive peoples and borrowed much from their neighbors, gave their outlook on medicine a strongly religious tinge. Their monotheistic belief led them to think that sickness was sent by God as a punishment for sins. Castiglioni has pointed out that this reduced the number of superstitions about malignant demons, animistic concepts, and superstitious and magical practices. The Creator was compassionate, however, and, if approached through his priests with a contrite

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