Below is an article of possible interest to the group.
On the famous pigeon remedy, seeFred Rosner, “Pigeons as a remedy for jaundice,” NY State Medical Journal 92:5(May, 1992), 189-192.
There have long been debates about the cause of death of the pigeons. One study attributed it to ruptured spleens. The concept of disease transference is an old one. I do not know how old the Jewish tradition of the pigeon treatment is, but I found an early historical record of the use of pigeons to treat disease:
Dr. Thomas Lodge popularized the concept of disease transfer in 1603. He plucked the tail feathers from live pullets and placed them on the sores of plague victims. The unlucky fowl became infected and died whereupon the good doctor would place another tailless fowl upon the sores. When at last, a pullet survived, he proclaimed the human patient on the road to recovery. News spread fast of this new cure and by the time the Black Death hit London in 1665, the common treatment for its victims was to have pigeons which had been cut in two, placed upon their sores to draw out the infection.
The pigeon/hepatitis treatment may possibly trace its origins back to this.
Dr. Eddie ReichmanIsraeli doctors are told what to do when medicine and religion clash Jerusalem Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
BMJ 2006;333:14 (1 July)
The ethics bureau of the Israel Medical Association has released a position paper to guide its members on how to act when their medical training clashes with their patients’ faith and beliefs.
Avinoam Reches, chairman of the ethics bureau and a senior neurologist at Hadassah University Medical Centre in Jerusalem, said he hopes the guidelines published in the latest issue of the association’s Hebrew language magazine, Zman Harefuah would help colleagues in a country where religion and faith in general often have a powerful influence.
“This is especially true when medicine has no solution, and patients and their families are desperate,” said Professor Reches. “Doctors may then find themselves facing advice and ‘treatment’ from the clergy, ‘healers,' or charlatans that run counter to their professional knowhow or world view.”
Israel’s Patients Rights Law, passed about a decade ago, gave patients the freedom to choose among the various possibilities within conventional medicine and outside it. Professor Reches said, “This choice may frequently conflict with the doctor’s autonomy, but the doctor can forgo some of his power in such cases.”
The rule of thumb is that doctors should allow the use of services that are based on beliefs or religion but cannot be forced to supply them themselves. Where treatments go against their professional knowledge doctors may, Professor Reches noted, refuse to be involved but can acquiesce as long as the patient, medical staff, and other patients are not harmed and the treatments do not come at the expense of medical resources needed to treat others.
He gave as an example the practice, rather common among ultra-Orthodox Jews, of healers using pigeons to treat jaundiced patients. Seven pigeons are used in sequence, with the healer pressing the bird’s anus on the patient’s navel, “releasing the poison” into the bird. The birds inevitably die, either as a result of the “poison” or of the pigeon handler breaking its neck in the process.
Professor Reches noted that some members of the clergy try to interfere with doctors’ work, advising patients to undergo tests or treatments that doctors do not recommend. “But if they come to pray or place amulets near the patient we should not interfere. We have to set boundaries between medicine and faith, which can have psychological, moral, and even placebo value. We mustn’t chase faith out of the hospital, but it must remain in the proper dimensions.”