How Did Islamic Medicine Contribute to Medical Progress

1. Islamic hospitals and ‘bimaristans’ were organised and set up to try to cure their patients and give them treatment instead of simply caring for them. They offered medical care to everyone whether they were rich or poor or of any religion, race or gender. This meant the doctors were constantly working almost constantly on site of the hospitals so they gained more experience very quickly. Also it gave medical students that were studying there a chance to train when they worked along side the doctors. The hospitals also let people learn and gain medical knowledge, as they set up a medical school and a library for people interested in medicine and health.

This way the hospitals could employ more properly trained doctors and nurses. The hospitals over all were very organised as they had wards for specific diseases and even set up hospitals for the mentally ill which were called ‘maristans’. Islamic doctors moved away from superstitions and religious causes and cures for disease and looked at natural ways to treat patients. Compared to the Christian views on mentally ill people being possessed they saw them as victims of an unfortunate illness. So over all Islamic hospitals were much more organised than Christian hospitals as they cared for all, gave treatments and had moved away from religious views on disease.

2. Rhazes was an important individual in the history of medicine because he created new medical ideas. He continued to stress the importance of observing the patient carefully and record any findings. From his records he managed to distinguish the difference between measles and small pox. He also believed that healthy environments were incredibly important. When he was asked to become a director of a new hospital in Baghdad he created a clever plan to decide where to site the hospital. He chose various sites and hung meat up in the areas and observed how much the meat decayed in the places. He suggested that the hospital should be built wherever the meat had decayed least, which also showed his beliefs in a healthy environment for patients.

Sina was an important individual because he wrote and produced a great encyclopaedia of medicine, which he called the ‘al-Qanun’ or ‘The Canon’. He summarised Galen and Hippocrates’s work and combined it with the findings of Islamic writers. It was a million word summary of all the medical knowledge at the time. The book was organised and incredibly detailed as it included sections such as anorexia and obesity. The book also listed medical properties of 760 drugs, which helped educate medical students and people interested in medicine.

3. I disagree with the statement “there was no medical progress for a thousand years after the collapse of the Roman Empire.” Medicine in Western Europe may not have made much progress but there certainly was medical progress made worldwide but especially in the Middle East. While in Western Europe ancient medical texts such as Galen and Hippocrates’s books were being overlooked in the Islamic Empire Caliphs were translating and preserving the ancient medical texts and manuscripts including Galen and Hippocrates’s work. These manuscripts were used in hospitals libraries, meaning that medical students and anyone interested in medicine could gain knowledge from the ancient texts. It also allowed doctors to read them and take in to account anything they could use or improve and develop. In fact Al-Razi wrote a book called ‘Doubts about Galen.’ as Islamic doctors challenged old ideas they discovered that Galen had been wrong about how blood moved from the heart around the body, and Ibn al-Nafis suggested the first idea that blood circulated around the body though the lungs.

However Islamic doctors such as Rhazes continued to stress the importance of carefully observing patients and recording findings down for future use. Although in hospitals they did observe, they also treated all patients instead of simply caring for them like western European hospitals. The new hospitals had trained doctors, physicians and nurses on site at all times. They also had libraries and medical schools built on to them so people could be educated about medicine and health. They also set up the first hospital specifically for mentally ill people. They didn’t think that mentally ill people were possessed but they believed they were victims of an illness.

Islamic doctors also moved away from the superstitious and religious views on medicine and disease. They started to discover new substances that could be used as medical drugs in hospitals, and they began to learn about the properties of the drugs. In Sina’s encyclopaedia there were 760 medical drugs listed with their properties. With all the new medical drugs around they could treat diseases they couldn’t treat before, and they could begin to develop new medicines.

So I think there wasn’t necessarily medical progress worldwide but there was great progress in the Middle East. They contributed to medical progress massively and medicine would not be the same today if they had not contributed what they had.

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