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bloodletting

bloodletting, also called bleeding, practice of drawing blood from the body in the treatment of disease. General bloodletting consists of the abstraction of blood by incision into an artery (arteriotomy) or vein (venesection, or phlebotomy). Local bloodletting is the abstraction of blood from smaller vessels by watercupping or by leeching. From antiquity through the 18th cent. bloodletting was widely practiced in western medicine. A broad assortment of ailments were believed to result from the impurity or superabundance of blood in the system; periodic bloodletting was felt to assure the patient of good health. In modern times the medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis) is still used in some areas of the world for the removal of blood from bruises and black eyes. Venesection is employed to treat erythremia, an abnormal condition characterized by the overproduction of red blood cells, and to relieve the congestion of blood resulting from acute heart failure.

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bloodletting

blood·let·ting / ˈblədˌleting/ • n. chiefly hist. the surgical removal of some of a patient's blood for therapeutic purposes. ∎  the violent killing and wounding of people during a war or conflict: gang members have halted their internecine bloodletting. ∎  bitter division and quarreling within an organization.

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"bloodletting." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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bloodletting

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Bloodletting

BLOODLETTING

BLOODLETTING , removal of blood in treating diseases. Bloodletting is frequently mentioned in the Talmud. It was performed not by a physician but by a skilled functionary called umman or gara, whose status was less than that of a physician. The bloodletter is mentioned in various passages in the Talmud, both favorably and unfavorably (e.g., Ta'an. 21b; Kid. 82a). Some of the directives about bloodletting in the Talmud relate to specific ailments (e.g., Git. 67b; Av. Zar. 29a), but most are in the realm of preventive medicine based on the belief that the regular removal of blood from the body was of hygienic value. Among the ten indispensable requirements of a town, in the absence of which "no scholar should reside there" (Sanh. 17b), is a bloodletter. According to the Talmud, bloodletting is one of the things which should be applied in moderation (Git. 70a), and, in practice, the amount of blood to be let varies with the subject's age. Maimonides (Yad, De'ot 4:18), though in general agreement, suggests, in addition, consideration of the subject's "blood richness" and physical vigor (Pirkei Moshe, 12). Many instructions are given in the Talmud with respect to diet and precautions to be taken both before and after bloodletting (e.g., Shab. 129a–b; Git. 70a; Ned. 54b; Av. Zar. 29a; et al.). Maimonides advises moderation in blood-letting: "A man should not accustom himself to let blood regularly, nor should he do so unless he is in great need of it" (Yad, loc. cit.). The views of the Talmud and of Maimonides provide a sharp contrast to those of the ancient and medieval world, where the practice of bloodletting was unrestricted. In late Hebrew literature (e.g., the Oẓar ha-Ḥayyim of Jacob *Ẓahalon and the Ma'aseh Tuviyyah of Tobias b. Moses *Cohn) directions for bloodletting and cupping are also found.

bibliography:

J. Preuss, Biblisch-talmudische Medizin (19233), 36–39, 289–300; M. Perlmann, Midrash ha-Refu'ah, 2 (1929), 85–89.

[Joshua O. Leibowitz]

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