Saturday, July 01, 2006

When Medicine and Religion Clash

Below is an article of possible interest to the group.
On the famous pigeon remedy, see
Fred 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.
Kol tuv,
Dr. Eddie Reichman

Israeli 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.”


At 2:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While many a Rabbi/medical referral peddler may call his pigeon man in for liver ailments,they have no idea what the effect is ;it is viewed as a cure-all for jaundice.
In the hospital where I work I have seen them bring in the pigeons to "tweet" fulminant Hepatitis A, as well as for end stage pancreatic cancer (with jaundice).
Maybe the Board of Internal Medicine should set guidelines as to which type of jaundice is healed by the birds.

"vechi of memit oh of mechaye......"

At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a source of this practice from the Talmud.See "Sefer HaMinhagim"
(In reference to pigeons and jaundice)
As Jews we know that NOTHING may cure except The Holy One,Blessed Be He. We use a medicine as a way to call upon G-D's help and He cures us.

In 1983 or so,living in Tzfat (Safed) there was a large outbreak of jaundice often effecting man,wife and children. Various Rabbis mentioned what is here known to be a usage of pigeons thousands of years old.

My doctor said "Eat carrots,no fried foods and 3 weeks in bed,but then you'll still feel weak".

I saw how the pigeons were used (just like written above),BUT a male only works on a male, and a female on a female.

After someone did one pigeon on me,I did the rest myself and for my wife. I also wondered if "the pigeon's kneck was broken", so I never touched its kneck and I held it lighly so as not to hurt internal organs.
If the pigeon was put close to the pupik,no connection was made.As soon as it was inside the navelthe pigeon immediately started to get short winded,close it's eyes and finally after around 5 times would shudder,give off a green substance from its beak and die.

My wife and I along with hundreds of other Jews went back to work feeling fine with much energy within another day! So much for a few hundred Jews bedridden for 3 weeks each and possibly infecting others,HaShem forbid.
I went to my Dr. and told him I was cured.He "Pretended" not to hear,but then later he said,"yes, I see it worked"

If skin burns were treated medically using pig skin as a graft, and heart valves from pigs instead of human hearts, and its kosher,well....

Plutarch and also Pliny the Greek philosophers "Fathers of modern medicine" mention 2000 years ago that the pigeon will look in the eye of the human and take the disease upn itself. I myself turned the pigeon around once, and for a female member of my family,she didn't even open her eyes,so they talk narishkeit!
The pigeon cannot cure a thing,like any medicine,its only G-D's agent for Him to cure us!


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