Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/638

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

prejudiced, thoughtful people some idea of the magnitude and scope of medicine and its importance to human and to all animal life, together with some faint conception of the moral forces impelling to the pursuit of those sciences which underlie medicine, in the light of these ideas the vivisection question would wholly disappear.

More than two hundred and fifty years ago, in the town of Schaffhausen, a German anatomist was engaged in studying the anatomy of the human body. The people loathed him as one possessed of the devil. They told him, in the words of an old superstition, that the stain of human blood he could never wash from his hands. His reply was, "I can wash the blood stains from my hands with a basin of water, but the stain of ignorance of anatomy can not be washed from the medical profession with all the water of the Rhine and the ocean."[1] Wepfer spoke of anatomy. Anatomy must precede physiology and pathology, as the structure must precede the function it is to perform. Thus Anatomy must prepare the way for physiology, and to some extent she has fulfilled her mission. But were a Wepfer to arise now, he would say, "The stain of ignorance of physiology can not be washed away with all the water of five oceans." I doubt, however, whether a modern Wepfer would lay the burden of blame at the door of the medical profession. It is everyday talk that physicians must lower their practice to the ignorance and prejudice of their patients. The idea of "magic" cures is still too deeply rooted in the average mind, and a doctor must "dose" a large proportion of his patients to satisfy this craving. At no time in the history of medicine has there been such a craze for patent medicines as now, and in no country is the situation so bad as in our own. We are the laughingstock of all Europe in this regard. In Germany apothecaries are prosecuted for advertising and selling American patent medicines. What hope, then, is there for rational medicine in a country that spends yearly hundreds of millions for worthless or harmful "patent medicines" and quack doctors, and but a very few paltry thousands for the advancement of physiology—and worse still, among a people who are as completely and just as intelligently satisfied with quack nostrums as men were in the dark ages with amulets and signatures, the moss scraped from a human skull, the powder of dried toads, or the hair of a saint?[2] In a nation of popular rule, the only hope seems to lie in scientific education of the people. How this is to be attained is a most difficult problem. The people will not educate themselves. Against such

  1. Rudolf Virchow. Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie, vol. clxxxv, p. 375, Berlin, 1881.
  2. George F. Fort. History of Medical Economy during the Middle Ages, London, 1883.