Health Professions - A Brief History of Healthcare Professions

A short history of the healing professions

Just as human history goes hand in hand with illness, birth and death, the profession of the healer is one of the oldest. Also malpractice and legal disputes do not seem to belong to the everyday life of modernity - the first systematically sorted legal regulations known to us also included regulations on medical, especially medical profession: The almost 4000 years old collection of Babylonian law, the well-known code of Hammurapi, for example, includes Fee regulations and liability issues.

Between permits and prohibitions

In the Middle Ages, not only the doctor but also the pharmacist and the midwife found their way into the statutory professional regulations: statements on duties of assistance and fees, rules on complications and confidentiality, instructions on the examination regulations. Many of these rules are valid or similar until today. In the middle of the 16th century, the foundation stone was laid for the profession of a non-medical practitioner: The practice of medicine by laymen was first regulated by law. Over the next few centuries, there was a constant change between so-called courier freedom and courier bans, often motivated by individual professional groups to secure their own status or restrict regulations.

Courier freedom means that anyone can practice the art of healing without admission or proof of education, as long as no one is harmed.

The active courier ban means a ban on practicing medicine without appropriate training, the passive courier ban prohibits the seeker of healing to be treated by a layman. In 1869, courier freedom was introduced, so that only the one needed a special license (license), who wanted to lead a certain title such as doctor or pharmacist; everyone was allowed to treat. Thereafter, the number of lay therapists increased sharply and stagnated only with the introduction of health insurance, which only took over the cost of medical or medical treatments.


1939 was then abolished by the Heilpraktikergesetz (which applies in principle to today), the courier freedom again. The plan was to completely reduce the profession of non-medical practitioner over a certain period of time. Both practicing naturopaths as well as new contenders were able to obtain an activity permit only after checking their knowledge; new candidates should no longer be allowed. In the 1950s, it was found that access to work is incompatible with and abolished the right to work freely. Since then, anyone who fulfills the requirements can obtain the alternative practitioner license in Germany.

In Germany, although the professional titles are protected and only a few health professionals (such as doctors, naturopaths, psychotherapists, physiotherapists, midwives) are allowed to make diagnoses and medical treatment in accordance with the law; all others are only allowed to advise. However, the term "therapist" is not protected, so it can also be used by persons with a lack of or unprofessional education who are not entitled to treatment, but the times of the passive courier ban are over - every patient is allowed to decide by whom and how he wants to be treated.

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