The Role of the Doctor

plaguedoctorPeople in the seventeenth century didn’t know what caused the plague and many believed it was a punishment from God. They did realise that coming into contact with those infected increased the risk of contracting the disease themselves. Cures and preventative measures were not at all affective.

Many doctors, knowing that they could do nothing for plague victims, simply didn’t bother trying to treat the disease. Those that did tried to make sure they were as protected as possible from the disease by wearing a “uniform” (refer to the image).

The “uniform” was designed for protection and left no part of the doctor’s body uncovered. The long gown was made from thick material and often covered with wax as this was thought to keep the germs out. The beak that was attached to the mask was stuffed with herbs, perfumes or spices to purify the air that the doctor breathed when he was close to victims. He carried a wooden stick so that he could drive people away if they came too close to him.

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