« PreviousContinue »
impaired in some sections of the country. Every where does empiricism abound. In many districts it is warmly patronized and encouraged, not by tho vulgar and ignorant only, but by the respected and intelligent; and in one state even legalized by statuto. The ancient Galenical empiricism, long supposed at an end, is in part resuscitated, if not with all of its olden frivolities, with those not less extravagant of modern date. Whence arises this state of things ? Is it not, from the observation, too apparent to the public, of the inferior grade of medical instruction? Do they perceive that wide difference in the acquirements of the rogularly educated practitioner and the empirical pretender which should always distinguish them? In the regular practice, has not the treatment of disease too much degenerated into a blind routino, pursued in nearly every disease, however dissimilar in nature? Can it be denied but that the only difference between the regular practice and empirical practice, is a merely routine practice of merely different remedies, and not always to the disadvantage of the empirical method ? In an arithmetical estimate, I apprehend, in the long run, the calculation of chances by eithor plan may appear equal, and then the difference in cost will decide the preference.
“There is but one mode of rescuing our profession from so degrading a rivalry, and that is, to raise the medical instruction of our country to a level with the philosophic character belonging to our science. Let medicine be, what in reality it is, a science of calculation, of combina
tion, of induction, the elements of which are deduced from the phenomena of organized beings, and the relations of exterior agents with them, and you rise so infinitely above the crude, and correct, and incorrect proceedings of empirical art, that the intelligent and observant can never be deceived by its vain boastings or illusory pretensions."
In further corroboration of our position, the distinguished Gertanner says:
66 Our materia medica is a mere collection of fallacious observations, and to the same effect is the remark of the illustrious Hoffmann. Perpauca sint remedia quorum virtutes et operationes certae plumira vero infida, suspecta, fallacia, ficta.”
It were easy to multiply authorities, says Dr. CHANNING, to prove what the conscientious and reflecting of the profession, have often publicly lamented. We feel that the fact we are urging can hardly engage our thoughts too seriously. Indeed, wo would that the attention of the whole profession were concentrated upon it, until they realize that here the citadel of medicine is asailable, and that humanity will never cease to reproach us with dereliction of duty as long as we leave it thus open to attack. But for this one unprotected point, had our fortress been stormed, the heroism of its veterans defied, and its best and bravest compelled to succumb before that dread pestilence, which but yesterday traversed the civilized globe, devastating hamlets, and cities, and kingdoms, almost unimpeded in its march. But for this indefensible condition of our ramparts, had we so often been compelled tamely to acquiesce in the taunts and the jeers of our enemies? Or, when some fearless associate, more actively vigilant, if not more sagacious than the rest, hoping to arouse us to a sense of our danger, has shouted in our ears the past delinquencies of our art, what but the received doctrine that the powers of the materia medica are "incapable of successful generalization,” has deterred us from rushing to the rescue? But for this paralyzing conviction so prevalent in our ranks, had we not long since rallied, with one consent, to the one standard of medical doctrine which Nature has set up? But, for this, had tho plea of Brutus ever been heard in our forums from spirits who,“not loving Cæsar less but Rome more," have been compelled to forswear their allegiance, and strike a blow for human emancipation from worse than Cæsar's bondage? Who of us did not feel his blood curdle in his veins; whose pulse did not stand still with grief and humiliation, when, but a brief period since, an eloquent pen, well known in the cause of medical philosophy, held up for our contemplation the following appalling delineation of theoretical and practical medicine.
“It seems to be one of the rules of faith in our art, that overy truth must be helped into belief by some persuasive fiction of the school. And I hero owe it to the general reader to confess, that as far as I know, the medical profession can scarcely produce a single volume, in its practical department, from the works of Hypocrates down to the last made text-book, which, by the requisitions of an exact philosophy, will not be found to contain nearly às much fiction as truth. This may seem so severe a charge against both the pride and logic of our art, that I crave a moment of digression upon it.
There are tests for all things. Now, a dangerous epidemic always shows the difference between the strong and the weak, the candid and the crafty, among physicians. It is equally true, that the same occasion displays, even to the common observer, the real condition of the art, whether its precepts are exact or indefinite, and its practice consistent or contradictory. Upon these points, and bearing in mind that we have now, in medicine, the recorded science and practice of more than two thousand years, let the reader refer to the proceedings of the so called "Asiatic cholera," and he will see their history every where exhibiting an extraordinary picture of prefatory panic, vulgar wonder, doubt, ignorance, obtrusive vanity, plans for profit and popularity, fatal blunders, distracting contradictions, and egregious empiricism of twenty confounding doctors called in consultation to mar the sagacious activity of one-of ten thousand books upon the subject, with still an unsatisfied call for more -of experience fairly frightened out of all its former convictions, and of costly missions after moonshine, returning only with clouds."
• Now, I do assert, that no art which has a sufficiency of truth, and the least logical precision, can ever wear a
face so mournfully grotesque as this. In most of the transactions of men, there is something like mutual understanding and collective agreement, on some point at least; but the history of the cholera suminoned up from the four quarters of the earth, presents only one tumultuous Babel of opinion, and one unavailable farrago of practice. This, even the populace learned from the daily gazettes; and they hooted at us accordingly. But it is equally true, that if the inquisitive fears of the community were to bring the real state of professional medicine to the bar of public discussion, and thus array the vanity and interests of physicians in the contest of opinion, we should find the folly and confusion scarcely less remarkable on nearly all the other topics of our art.”
“ Whence comes all this? Not from exact observation, which assimilates our minds to ono consenting usefulness; but from fiction, which individualizes each one of us to our own solitary conceit, or herds us into sects for idle or mischievous contention with each other; which leads to continual imposition on the public, inasmuch as fictions, for a time, always draw more listeners than truth; which so generally gives to the mediocrity of men, and sometimes even to the palpably weak, a leading influence in our profession, and which helps the impostures of the advertising quack, who, being an unavoidable product of the pretending theories of the schools, may be called a physician with the requisite amount of fictions, but without respectability.”