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Death Penalty or No Death Penalty?

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Thousands of women were sentenced to death for reasons that seem ridiculous today.  For more on this topic, check out my prior commentary:

Jacqueline Felice de Almania was an Italian-born French physician who practiced medicine in Paris during the early 14th century. She was considered to be a better doctor than most of the other physicians in the city. However, she was put on trial for medical malpractice in 1322, was convicted and barred from practicing. She was fined, and threatened with excommunication if she resumed her practices.

She was one of a few women practicing medicine in Paris at the time. The other practitioners included Maria Felicia Orsini, duchess of Montmorency, and Maria Felice, daughter of Virginio Orsini. The case against Jacqueline, however, was particularly inflammatory, as it was believed that she was treating patients illegally. It was also believed that she was incompetent to treat patients because she didn’t have a college education. The judgment against her was a major blow for women in France, as it was a major barrier to becoming a physician.

While the case against Jacqueline did not end with her being convicted of fraud, the court’s verdict against her did have a major impact on women’s access to medical careers. It discouraged women from studying and practicing medicine in France for the next five and a half centuries.

During the trial, Jacqueline’s attorneys were able to bring up eight patients, each of whom testified that she had treated them successfully. They said that she had cured them when other doctors had given up. Despite this, the judges dismissed the testimony of these women. Instead, the medical faculty of the court reminded the court of the penalties that had been in place for sixty years against ignorant physicians in Paris. They also ignored the testimonials of the patients who praised Jacqueline.

Jacqueline’s story is important in the history of science and medicine. It was a major factor in the evolution of women as scientific and medical professionals. It was also a key component in the movement to allow women to become doctors. As a result, Jacqueline’s case is one that many women remember from the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries.

She was not trained in a university, nor did she attend one. Rather, she relied on her medical skills and knowledge. She had a reputation for curing patients who other physicians had deemed to be too sick to be helped.  She prescribed digestives, laxatives, and potions. She also believed that only female physicians should examine and cure women to preserve their modesty. She did not have a letter of certification, which was a requirement for becoming a medical professional in Europe.

Her medical techniques were based on theoretical studies and observation. Her practice did not charge any fees until her treatments were successful. 

Even though her legal counsel was top notch, the court ultimately convicted Jacqueline of fraud. She was banned from practicing medicine. 

The case against her also prompted stricter rules against unlicensed medical practitioners. 

Did women like Jacqueline really deserve the death penalty?  No, I don’t think so.  Offering to heal others is a noble practice, especially with a no payment unless successful clause.  

Jacqueline was one of the lucky ones whose life was spared from death.  The methods used during her time could have been inflicted in a multitude of ways including the rack, a horrible medieval torture device.  

May we keep learning from the mistakes of the past as well as keeping an open mind when it comes to the health and healing of ourselves and family.

Wendy Bjork, founder of is a pioneer in advocacy and mentorship.  Wendy is leading a global revolution of women walking in purpose and peace as she illumines their path ahead with the light of HOPE:  Harmony, Options, Peace & Empowerment.

She empowers women to step into their boldness, stand in their resilience and own their Truth.  Through Wendy’s guidance, they are finally seen, heard and understood.

Wendy has authored two books and co-authored a third, “Fired Up!,” a #1 International bestseller. She is a regular contributor on the digital platforms and to the National MS Society’s Momentum Magazine.  She is regularly invited on discussions, podcasts, interviews as she shares her story and hope to inspire others.

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