Page:A cyclopedia of American medical biography vol. 2.djvu/382

This page needs to be proofread.


KISH


The author oi tlio;il)ove quotation thou <j;oes ou to state in pathetic terms what an advautaso this has given the students who have studied imder Benja- min Kush over those wh(\ hke himseh", hail been oliliii'ed lo l(>arn 1>\' the old methods.

One markeil peculiarity in Hush was his readiness to acknowledge an error and retract o]iinions proven erroneous by subsequent researches or events. One of his active and enquiring mind, continu- ally employed in original researches and constantly by his writings and teaching endeavoring to advance medical science, was bound to err sometimes, and it redounds to his credit that when such mistakes were seen, ho promptly ac- knowledged the fault.

His therapeutic standbys were the lancet and calomel. The latter he called Sampson, and his enemies in derision were wont to say " because it has slain its thousands." It was in the yellow fever of 1793 that Rush had the efficacy of these two therapeutic agents especiallj' impressed upon him and the lesson he then learned as to their value he never allowed himself to disregard. He states that he and the other phj-sicians of Philadelphia had been completely non- plussed in their efforts to find a method of treatment which seemed in any way to control the course of the disease. In this extremity he found among some papers in his library a manuscript which had been prescribed to him by Dr. Frank lin years previously. It was an account of the yellow fever of 1741 in the Prov- ince of Virginia, written by a Dr. Mitchell. In it the latter put forth the strongest claims of the value of free purgation in the treatment of yellow fever, even where the disease was accompanied by an extreme degree of debility, and a very feeble pulse. Rush, upon reading Mit- chell's manuscript, reasoned that the feeble pulse seen in so many cases was the result of debility from " an oppressed state of the system." He proceeded to immediately put his ideas into effect by administering enormous doses of calomel


340 RUSH

and jalop to all his patients. In addition to this he practised copious venesection, put the i)atient upon a low diet and used applications of cokl water to the surface of the body, combined with the driidving of large (luantities of water. He also advised that the temperature of the sick- room be low.

Rush hastened to impart his ideas to his fellow ])ractitioners, and, indeed, to the i)ublic at large. The results achieved by his methods were certainly most gratifying. An oft-quoted statement is contained in his notebook for September 10. "Thank God! out of one hmnlred patients whom I have visited or pre- scribed for this day, I have lost none." He was overwhelmed with patients, and at length was himself taken ill and under- went a course of his own treatment. Mter his recovery he resumed his labors and remained at them until the epidemic was ended.

He shared the common fate of the famous in stirring up detractors. By his proclaiming his belief that the yellow fever was the result of filth in the streets of their city and not an importation, he caused the greatest anger among the citizens of Philadelphia. His most in- famous assailant was William Cobbett, in his "Peter Porcupine's Gazette." Rush sued him for defamation of character, and, having won his suit, gave the $5,000 which the law awarded him to the poor. Another famous quarrel in which Rush was involved occurred in the yelloAv-fever epidemic of 1797. Rush again published and adhered to his views on the efficacy of bleeding and purgation and also to the claim that the disease arose from the hlthy condition of certain parts of the city. The "United States Gazette" published a very severe article on Rush, which he supposed had been written by a Dr. Ross. John Rush, son of Benjamin, wrote a bitter reply to Dr. Ross and after some further interchange of literary hostilities proceeded to cane him. Dr. Ross challenged Dr. Benjamin Rush to a duel, as he declared him responsible for his son's actions. Rush refused the