Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/553

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
537
THE SCHOOLS OF MEDICINE.

traria contrariis curantur," or a system founded upon the belief in a certain antagonism discoverable between drug-action and disease.

Upon the face of these definitions, seemingly irreconcilable differences exist between the two leading schools of medicine; differences which, if borne out by the facts of to-day, furnish ample excuse for this persistently anxious query of the public. That the present status, however, of medical science affords no adequate support to this popular idea of a hopeless variance is clearly susceptible of proof.

When Hahnemann promulgated his new and remarkable dogmas, they certainly came into direct collision with the then accepted opinions and practice of the medical world. They were conceived and brought forth in an age of heroic measures in medicine; an age, too, in which the sthenic types of disease were largely predominant, and when the lancet and its auxiliary depletives were accounted the unfailing panaceas of all human ills in which failure was not a foreordained fact.

The homœopathic tenets rushed to the other extreme of theory, and, in practice, won the faint praise of doing at least no injury to human life. But, starting thus from widely separated points, the two schools have steadily traveled forward along paths set in inevitably convergent lines. The unbridged space which lay between them a century ago has been narrowed imperceptibly in their onward march, until men discover with surprise that to-day, across the intervening chasm, they can safely join their hands; and that, by mutual approaches, they may soon walk side by side, in common effort for the relief of humanity, and yet keep steadily "abreast of truth." Unconsciously receiving the impress of its opponent's teachings, the older school has learned, first, to lessen, and then to minimize its doses; to improve the preparation of its drugs, and to seek for better forms and methods in their administration. If it can boast the direct salvation of no greater number of lives, in consequence, it is at least responsible for fewer deaths. Its distinguishing characteristics have ever been an active spirit of investigation, and the consequent widening of the limits of its medical faith.

The homœopathy of to-day has also shaken from its feet the dust of more than one worthless theory. Although within its ranks are still numbered some so-called "high dilutionists," its leaders have long ceased to insist upon infinitesimal dosage as an essential principle of treatment. Not a few of its representative men administer many of their drugs in crude form, as the rule rather than the exception of practice. If it still clings to its central dogma, its principal adherents no longer claim for it the respect or merit of a universal law. That it serves as a good indication for the use of certain drugs, in the treatment of many conditions of disease, few careful students of materia medica and therapeutics will deny. Witness, as instances, the physiological as related to the curative action, in some particulars, of