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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/794

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changes as have been thoroughly tested and their benefits demonstrated. It is also quite in harmony with the spirit of the profession, which may, perhaps, in the phraseology of the day, be said to be "conservative—not too conservative, but just conservative enough."

Men who profess to deal with human life and health adopt radical changes with cautiousness. Yet the members of no other profession, probably, are more ready for discussion. Theories are constantly advanced and—upset. Others are maintained and imperceptibly shaded off into practice. Galen was an authority for thirteen centuries, when a revolution of medical ideas took place, and his works were burned by Paracelsus and his followers. The homœopathic offshoot of what is known as the regular school of medicine obtained a foothold only after years of debate and discussion. It is only a few years ago, in 1855, that a judicial decision was necessary to establish the right of a homoeopath to the title of doctor,[1] and it is not so very long ago that an allopath thought he could call a homœopath a quack with impunity. In a slander suit in which he was a party defendant, the Court, however, convinced him of his mistake.[2]

This incident illustrates the disposition of the older school toward innovations and the vindication by one new branch of practitioners of its claim to recognition. But, surprising as it may seem, such were the statutes in force in New York State from 1844 to 1874, that all other classes of practitioners were equally countenanced by the law. Allopath, homœopath, hydropath, or whatever devious path he followed, the man who made the practice of physic or surgery a business was entitled to the name of doctor, and to the protection afforded by the courts.[3]

A résumé of the statutes which have been passed in the Empire State regulating the practice of physic and surgery reveals a most curious struggle against quackery, in which it will be seen that quackery was for the most part triumphant. About the beginning of this century our law-makers undertook a reform in the matter of practice of physic and surgery, and made it a penal offense to do either without being duly licensed for the purpose. There being no enactment in special terms against the recovery of compensation for such unlawful services, the Legislature, in 1806, passed another statute expressly declaring that any person who should commence practice without a license, after the first day of September next ensuing, should "for ever thereafter be disqualified from collecting any debt or debts incurred by such practice." This was a severe blow to "quacks." It was penal for them to practice, and they had no friend in the Court. Truly, the way of the transgressor seemed hard. The bonds were carefully examined and readjusted in 1813. The revision of 1830 contained similar provisions. The unauthorized practice of physic and surgery was declared "a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both."

  1. 4 E. D. Smith, New York, 1.
  2. 42 New York, 161.
  3. 4 Denio, New York, 60.