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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/124

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Magendie,[1] Bock,[2] Jules Virey,[3] Jennings,[4] Rush,[5] but against bigots like Dr. Black; against medical obscurantists who dread the enlightenment of their victims as vampires dread the dawn of the morning; who oppose independent thinkers with that rancorous hatred which Jesuits feel toward the divulgers of their trade-secrets; who, by holding on to the last planks of their wrecked dogmas, by illogical compromises and temporizing sophisms, are trying to perpetuate the curse of a life-blighting delusion; who subordinate the interests of mankind to the interests of their clique, and disparage reformers till they find it convenient to appropriate the credit of their discoveries.

"Some acute philosophers," our obliging correspondent informs us, "think that all the phenomena of the universe can be explained on the laws of mechanics, from the motions of a molecule up to those of the celestial masses." Just so. And Dr. Black might as well confess the secret of his predilection for that system. Its application to therapeutics has so simplified the practice of medicine; and its recognition as the law of the universe would confirm the prestige of the orthodox cause. Instead of troubling himself with a life-long study of the laws and revelations of Nature, the lessons of instinct, the interaction of the vital functions, their modifications under abnormal circumstances, the secrets of the reproductive and self-regulating principle of the human organism, our mechanical philosopher would prefer to re-establish the system of the good old times, when he could consult a pocket-index of drugs, set against an alphabetical list of diseases, point to his diploma as a presumptive proof that he had learned to repeat the Latin synonyms and construct the pharmaceutic symbols of the various "remedial agents," etc., and magisterially reprimand hygienic "idealists," as a village schoolmaster, well read in Genesis, would reprove an exponent of the evolution doctrine.

"Dr. Oswald," says our astute correspondent, "is apparently unable to discern that all the customs and habits of savages are intimately correlated to their vital organism, and that for us to adopt only one of them might prove murderous to civilized beings." Because we can not imitate all the customs of a primitive nation, is that a reason why we should not adopt some of them? With such arguments our medical censor dares to insult the intelligence of your readers! Must we avoid the unleavened bread of the ancient Hebrews because we dislike circumcision? Must we disparage Japanese temperance, because we do not want to commit hari-kari? Would the Samian water-cure prove more murderous to civilized beings than Dr. Black's blue-pills? If I should recommend the system of the medical philosopher Asclepiades, who used to prescribe a special course of gymnastics for every form of human disease, Dr. Black would try to retreat behind his correlation-dodge. "Such systems," he would probably remark, "were intimately correlated to the physical and social organism of the pagan savages and their uncivilized doctors; but nowadays every intelligent druggist would agree with me that it would never do to let people cure their diseases with such reme-

    animals and savages, upon the rapidity of their recovery from injuries that defy all the mixtures of materia medica: also upon the fact that the homœopathists cure their patients with milk-sugar and mummery, the prayer-Christians with mummery without milk-sugar, and my followers with a milk-diet without sugar or mummery the conclusion forces itself upon us that the entire system of therapeutics is founded upon an erroneous view of disease "

  1. "I hesitate not to declare, no matter how sorely I shall wound our vanity, that so gross is our ignorance of the real nature of the physiological disorders called diseases, that it would perhaps he better to do nothing, and resign the complaint we are called upon to treat to the resources of Nature, than to act, as we are so often compelled to do, without knowing the why and the wherefore of our conduct, and at the obvious risk of hastening the end of the patient."
  2. "By special methods of diet nearly all known diseases can be cured as well as caused. . . . Twenty-five years' experience at the sick-bed and the dissecting-table, in the nursery and on the battlefield, have convinced me that, "with rare exceptions, the disorders of the human body, which have been treated after such an infinite variety of drug-systems, can be as well cured without any drugs at all"
  3. "Our system of therapeutics is so shaky" (vacillant) "that the soundness of the basis itself must be suspected."
  4. "It is unnecessary for my present purpose to give a particular account of the results of homœopathy; . . . what I now claim with respect to it is, that a wise and beneficent Providence is using it to expose and break up a deep delusion. In the results of homœopathic practice we have evidence, in amount and of a character sufficient, most incontestably to establish the fact that disease is a restorative operation, or renovating process, and that medicine has deceived us. The evidence is full and complete. It does not merely consist of a few isolated cases, whose recovery might be attributed to fortuitous circumstances, but it is a chain of testimony fortified by every possible circumstance. . . . All kinds and grades of disease have passed under the ordeal and all classes and characters of persons have been concerned in the experiment as patients or witnesses; . . . while the process of infinitesimally attenuating the drugs used was carried to such a ridiculous extent that no one will, on sober reflection, attribute any portion of the, cure to the medicine. I claim, then, that homœopathy may be regarded as a providential sealing of the fate of old medical views and practices."
  5. "I am here incessantly led to make an apology for the instability of the theories and practice of physic; and those physicians generally become the most eminent who have the soonest emancipated themselves from the tyranny of the schools of physic. Dissections daily convince us of our ignorance of disease, and cause us to blush at our prescriptions. What mischief have we done under the belief of false facts and false theories! We have assisted in multiplying diseases; we have done more, we have increased their mortality. I will not pause to beg pardon of the faculty for acknowledging, in this public manner, the weakness of our profession. I am pursuing Truth, and am indifferent whither I am led, if she only is my leader."