Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/635

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
617
VIVISECTION AND PRACTICAL MEDICINE.

to see which is the right one; he may, after much trouble, by chance hit upon the correct answer, but he more commonly fails: and most probably the boy who works out his sum in the straightforward way will far sooner arrive at the desired result. Physiology moves onward by means of accumulating and arranging facts which have borne the test of experiment. Empiricism accumulates observations which, without further test, are used to formulate theories that, as likely as not, are unfounded, and are as apt to mislead as to advance medical knowledge. When asked to give an example of the utility of experimental physiology in the treatment of disease, I feel inclined to answer with another question: Is there one reliable system of diagnosis or one mode of treatment now in use which has not been modified or improved, if not directly suggested, by physiological knowledge? And I must certainly confess that I know none. Before attempting to bring forward single cases, as instances where certain experiments have been of direct use to medical and surgical practice, I shall examine the question from the opposite stand-point, by taking some simple case of every-day occurrence, and glancing at its routine examination and treatment. We can then see to what extent vivisection influences the practitioner in the details of his daily work. We may safely take a case at random; one not associated very closely in our minds with any brilliant experimentation will, perhaps, be the best. The following case, which I happen to have seen recently, will do as well as any other:

Not long since I found a policeman examining a poor woman who was said to have had a "stroke." She lay speechless and motionless on a door-step; she showed no signs of convulsions, no stertorous breathing, no frothing at the mouth. So the policeman hesitated to make a diagnosis—thinking, no doubt, that other causes besides a "stroke" might give rise to such a want of muscular irritability. Gently shaking her had no effect, but on his applying some form of stimulus to the finger she showed signs of returning consciousness, and the left leg and arm moved slightly. The right eye remained partly open, the other was closed; when the eyelid was raised, so as to expose the pupil to the sunshine, some movement of the muscles of expression was observable, but only on the left half of the face, to which side the mouth was slightly drawn. This became more obvious when some drops of cold water were thrown at her. The pulsation of the temporal artery was visible. Putting my ear to the top of her chest I found the heart beating violently, and heard a prolonged blowing noise instead of the sharp, clear tone of the second heart-sound. Without much effort my thoughts had passed from the pulsating temporal artery to the heart, and from the imperfect aortic valves to the middle cerebral artery, where I fancied an embolus must be impacted. I told the policeman the woman had better be taken to a hospital, which was done accordingly.