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Reviewed by:
  • Medicine and Medical Ethics in Medieval and Early Modern Spain: An Intercultural Approach
  • Darrel W. Amundsen
Samuel S. Kottek and Luis García-Ballester, eds. Medicine and Medical Ethics in Medieval and Early Modern Spain: An Intercultural Approach. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1996. 291 pp. $28.00.

In December 1992, as part of “Sefarad ‘92,” which marked the quincentenary of the expulsion of Jews from Spain, a symposium was held in Jerusalem to provide an interfaith comparative perspective on medical-ethical issues in medieval and early modern Spain. Fifteen papers by fourteen participants (seven from Israel, five from Spain, and one each from Great Britain and Canada) are printed in this volume.

Eight of the fifteen papers are set in the high and late Middle Ages: “Ethical Problems in the Relationship between Doctors and Patients in Fourteenth-Century Spain: On Christian and Jewish Practitioners” (Luis García-Ballester); “Jewish Physicians and Medicine in Medieval Spain” (Yom Tov Assis); “Medical Licensing and Practice in Medieval Spain: A Model of Interfaith Relationships?” (Etienne Lepicard); “The Converso Physician in the Anti-Jewish Controversy in Fourteenth-Fifteenth Century Castile” (Marcelino V. Amasuno); “Academic Discourse and Pain in Medical Scholasticism” (Fernando Salmón); “Fixing a Cost for Medical Care: Medical Ethics and Socio-Economic Reality in Christian Spain as Reflected in Jewish Sources” (Y. Tzvi Langermann); “Medical Practice and Jewish Law: Nah.manides’ Sefer Torat HaAdam” (Samuel S. Kottek); and “The Relationship between the Process of Reasoning and the Legitimacy of Medical Therapy in Medieval Spanish Halakhah” (Daniel Sinclair).

Four papers are set in the Counter-Reformation and early modern eras: “The Ideal Medical Practitioner in Counter-Reformation Castile: The Perception of the Converso Physician Henrique Jorge Henriques (c. 1555–1622)” (Jon Arrizabalaga); “Minorities and Medicine in Sixteenth-Century Spain: Judaizers, ‘Moriscos’ and the Inquisition” (Luis García-Ballester); “Ethical Perspectives in the Care of Infants in Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century Spain” (Rosa Ballester); and “The Ethical Manipulation of the Patient in the Ancients Versus Moderns Controversy: The Impact of Giuseppe Gazola’s Il Mondo Ingannato da Falsi Medici (1716) in Spain” (Guillermo Olagüe de Ros).

The three concluding essays are broader in scope than the book’s geographic and temporal parameters: “Elements of Moslem Forensic Medicine” (Yaakov Meron); “Contemporary Trends in Medical Ethics” (David Heyd); and “Modern Medicine, Ethical Dilemmas, and the Impact of the Medieval Jewish Codifiers” (David W. Weiss).

This volume has both the strengths and the weaknesses of published proceedings of many symposia. First, the strengths: most of the essays are germane to the title of the symposium. Some of the papers break new ground and are excellent pieces of scholarship. Because of the high quality of the participants, none of the papers is of an embarrassingly low caliber, and all are of potential value to scholars in a variety of fields. But there are some weaknesses: several of the essays are the not entirely successful results of attempts to adapt some aspect of [End Page 494] participants’ scholarly competence to the focus of the symposium. And a few simply do not fit within the symposium’s announced boundaries.

The organizing committee chose the symposium’s subject because they regarded it as “an extraordinary example of collaboration and mutual trust in Jewish and Christian Spain” (p. 9). While some papers emphasize, for instance, that Jewish physicians were a common feature of Christian Spain in the high and late Middle Ages, a nearly pervasive subtext is hostility rather than harmony. And this hostility was not simply that of the Catholic Church and, sometimes, civil authorities toward Jewish physicians’ practicing on Christian patients, but also halakhic antagonism to Jews’ employing Christian physicians. Sometimes the most eager combatants in this arena were converso physicians whose vitriolic arguments against Christians’ submitting to Jewish physicians were more theologically tortured than any pertinent legislation of medieval church councils. In spite of the committee’s optimism, religious tensions often appear to have been stronger than compatibilities. Interestingly, the one paper that deals with Islam, after asserting that “the majority opinion in Moslem law” that prohibits Moslems’ being treated by non-Moslem physicians “coincides with a natural tendency among Moslems,” concludes with the observation that in Israel...

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