Although standard dictionary definitions of treatment emphasize the medical or surgical remedies given to a patient for an illness or an injury, what is meant by treatment is historically, socially, and culturally contingent. This not only is true now within health humanities scholarship but is also the critical consensus within contemporary histories of medicine. In a medical sense, the term treatment was first recorded in 1744, rooted in the Latin tractare, meaning “to deal with.” Until then, cure or remedy were used (Berkeley 1744). Treatment came into common usage in the nineteenth century—a shift in language that paralleled a new categorization of knowledge and medical practitioners’ claims to possessing the primary expertise in the management of illness. At the same time, treatment as understood within medical spheres contains the traces of earlier definitions that identified the word with negotiation and the striking of bargains. There remains considerable evidence that medical treatments are dialectical: constructed by arriving at agreed settlements between active participants. Nevertheless, what is signified by treatment varies temporally and also between medical cultures in the Global North and Global South.

This essay may be found on page 209 of the printed volume.

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