Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/465

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

in legitimate rewards. The sphere of the physician is of largest practical utility to the community. He it is who, by long years of close study, hospital teaching and personal experience, becomes gradually equipped to fill the responsible post of conservator of public and private health, of guide to the delicate human mechanism when disordered. His problem is a complex one for which he must furnish the highest qualities of character, wisdom, tact, sympathy and personal kindliness. He is the one who, even in those situations of gravity when the onslaughts of disease can not be stayed, comes closer to the heart, the soul and person than even the man of God. He should be (and in this as in other ways he seldom fails) in all respects a man, typifying the most estimable advisory qualities of friend, father, brother. No household is safe without a wise family physician in whom the members can repose confidence. He can, and does, furnish far more than medical advice; he is the counselor in a thousand directions, whether in illness, sorrow, domestic catastrophe, mental shock, perils of countless sorts and degrees. He can only display his resourcefulness, his manifold capacities, if he be permitted free access to the household to enable him to foresee, warn and thus prevent those calamities which too often can not be cured. It is an inconsiderable part of his duties to administer drugs, though these are among his keenest weapons. He should possess the fullest knowledge of their uses and employ them with skill and timeliness.

How far could a crew of bankers, of clergymen, of merchants guide and use a man-of-war? What sort of pictures could a man untrained in pictorial art paint, were he provided with the full accoutrements of a skilled artist? How long would a child alone continue to live in a butcher shop stocked full for Christmas feasting? These analogues are mild compared with that of an ailing man or woman turned loose in a chemist's shop to select remedies unaided. Yet many people take advice and swallow drugs, deadly in ultimate intent, incited thereto by each other, by the newspapers, by alluring labels on the bottles, and still regard themselves as shrewd. They often do worse, if, failing good effects from these nostrums (and provided they survive) turning to charlatans, who trade upon human credulity, themselves not realizing that sick bodies always enshrine disordered minds.

The sphere of the physician is not that of a merchant selling wares; he is the scientific and practical guide in times of physical danger. His duties and responsibilities are theoretically, but not practically, understood. The public expects of him who guides the helm in times of disease and threatened death ethical qualities which he seldom fails to furnish. If in his best judgment drugs are needed, he it is who should select and change. He may be less wise than he might, or even than he is estimated, but assuredly he is vastly better fitted at all