A plague doctor was a medicine worker who treated victims of the black death, the Justinian and bubonic varieties. They were hired directly by towns where outbreaks of disease were particularly pernicious.
Since city coffers were covering their salaries, they treated everyone: both the wealthy and the poor. However, some plague doctors were known for charging patients and their families extra for special treatments and/or false cures.
These men weren’t usually professionally trained, experienced physicians and surgeons. More often than not, they were second-rate healers otherwise unable to run a viable practice, or opportunistic young medics trying to establish themselves at ripe moments.
These doctors rarely cured their patients. Rather, they got a count of the number of people contaminated for demographic purposes.
Text and photography by Mika Suutari