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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/656

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

or cess-pool, so long as men prefer swallowing drugs to abstaining from favorite articles of food, or regulating personal habits, so long must the medical advisers of a community find their best efforts to advance sound sanitary science thwarted. It will be a long and tedious task—this of educating out of the popular mind this strange passion for dosing; but herein lies one of the most important tasks of the physician of the future. If he does his work well, he must be strong enough and determined enough to stem a powerful current of deeply rooted prejudice and self-indulgent unreasonableness; but, if he and his fellows only persevere, they will do incalculable good. So difficult is this work that many shrink from it. They admit the importance of fresh air in hospitals, nay, they demand it, but in their private practice they say little about ventilation. They are careful that their prescriptions shall be properly compounded and regularly taken, but they are much less careful about the diet of their patients. They treat zymotic diseases, but do not enforce such sanitary regulations as they know to be necessary. I do not say that all are open to this charge—not all, but some—and there should be none. With all earnestness would I plead that the people be taught how to live, and I would urge this not only for the sake of the people, but for that of the doctors as well. It is evident that their success as healers of disease must be far greater if their patients observe hygienic laws than if they do not. The instructions of the doctor, weighty enough when given to one stricken with grave disease, may often fall unheeded upon the listless ears of a well person. Sick people are usually more eager to get well than well people to avoid sickness; and yet, even though the labor seem well-nigh useless, the welfare of the race demands that the principles of hygiene be made known, and the task of doing this naturally rests upon those who have undertaken to be the medical advisers of the community. It may be that the people will learn to care very much for those laws upon the observance of which good health depends, with discouraging slowness, but the good work once begun must go on with increasing power and influence. We may take heart as we see what has already been done in this direction, for a great deal of very important knowledge has already been received by the people—knowledge of the necessity for fresh air and sunshine, of cleanliness of person and of premises, of proper food, clothing, and exercise, of the laws of heredity and how hereditary tendencies to disease may be overcome. If we compare the sanitary condition of the homes and the villages of our ancestors not more than a century ago, with that which we may now find, we shall, I think, be led to hope very much for the future. It may still be true, as an eminent medical writer not long since declared it to be, that "men in general behave in relation to the laws which govern human evolution very much as primeval savages behaved in relation to the laws of physical nature—are content with superstition where they should strive to get knowledge, and put up