By Lori Ann Woods
MA Thesis: University of Calgary, 1998
Introduction: In the late thirteenth century, the faculty of medicine at the University of Paris endeavoured to regulate medical practice in the city and its suburbs. The first extant medical legislation (1271) prohibited surgeons, apothecaries and herbalists from exceeding the limits or bounds of their respective crafts. Rather than delineate lateral spheres of interest, the regulations aimed at sanctioning the ‘office’ of the university-trained (master) physician. Hence, exceeding the limits of one’s crafts invariably meant an infringement on the physician’s assumed rights of practice: visiting the sick, diagnosing illness, prescribing and administering medication, and offering medical advice. Consequently, a herbalist was confined to the manual task of compounding medicines; that is, he or she could neither prescribe nor administer remedial treatment without a physician’s supervision. While these regulatory measures seemed to confront prevailing medical practices, master physicians nevertheless attempted to enforce their proprietary interests by selective prosecution. Legal action tended to be directed at empiric practitioners who lacked corporate protection for their craft and a formal license to practice medicine.