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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/795

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SOME NOTES ON A DOCTOR'S LIABILITY.

This provision was short-lived. The work of the lobbyists of the irregular party began to tell. In April of the same year an act was passed which made the offense penal instead of criminal, and which also declared that such penal provisions should "not be deemed and taken to extend to or debar any person from using or applying for the benefit of any sick person any roots, barks, or herbs, the growth or produce of the United States." Mark the charming protective air in that statute! Under a free construction it reads, "However dangerous they may be, if you only use American roots and products, we don't care what you do." Quackery was again the upper dog. But the struggle was not over. Although on top, the other dog had a vicious grip upon him. The empiric was still unable to recover compensation from delinquent patients. He was equal to the emergency, and took his pay in advance. It took the licensed practitioners four years to make the next move, which was a feeble one. In 1834 the exemption from the penalty was confined to such as used the herbs, etc., without fee or reward. The next year the enactment was blotted out, and the two parties stood as in 1830. For fourteen years the condition of affairs remained unchanged, when, in 1841, all criminal and penal laws against the unlicensed practice of physic and surgery were repealed, as well as every enactment which prohibited any person from recovering compensation for services as physician or surgeon, whether licensed or not. One doctor was as good as another in the eye of the law. Quackery had achieved a complete victory, and was liable only in cases of malpractice, or gross ignorance, or immoral conduct in such practice. The standard of admission to the profession was lower even than it was in the time of the Christian emperors. At that early day physicians were required to undergo an examination to prove their competency to perform professional duties before they were permitted to practice. If any practiced without a license they were heavily fined.

For thirty years the situation remained unchanged. From 1844 to 1874 no step was taken to purify the system. But, in the latter year, our legislators awoke. Among other regulations it was declared "a misdemeanor for any person to practice medicine or surgery in the State unless authorized so to do by a license or diploma from some chartered school. State board of medical examiners, or medical society," or who should practice it "under cover of a medical diploma illegally obtained." The punishment was to be a fine of not less than fifty dollars nor more than two hundred dollars for the first offense, and for a subsequent offense a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars, or imprisonment of not less than thirty days or both. This was an excellent move, and, supplemented by the one in 1880, has been fairly effectual in driving out unlicensed practitioners. The enactment of 1880 provided that no person shall "practice physic or surgery within the State unless he is twenty-one years of age, and either has been heretofore authorized so to do pursu-