« PreviousContinue »
as are too often only productive of despondency and despair ; but could the dormant energies of the profession be awakened, could their conjoined efforts be directed in the right channel, a happier issue might be expected, and a success unequalled follow.
Firmly impressed with the truth of these statements, I would address the great mass of the medical profession, now—but not heretofore—the well-educated, efficient attendants in ordinary on all classes of society, whether under the name of physician, surgeon, or general practitioner, with an earnest desire that the comments made may bear such weight only as the force of truth and justice shall claim for them.
I may briefly answer the inquiry before us—as to the present anomalous state of the profession-by affirming that which I would prove in the sequel, viz., that this position has arisen from the corruptions and divisions in that body which should ever have existed as one harmonious whole; that their effects have been a comparative elevation of one by the degrading alliance of another section of the profession, with all the petty strivings, despicable jealousies, and moral delinquencies thence ensuing; and that the only efficient remedy is a re-union of the divided parts of medicine, and a separation of all that is abnormally united to it.
In following out these several heads, I would earnestly seek to avoid all cause of offence to any section of the profession or individual member connected with it; yet would I, at the same time, fully and fearlessly avow the truth as far as I
may be able.
As a preliminary to the more immediate and important part of this paper, viz., the connection of existing institutions with the present mode of practice and remuneration throughout Great Britain and Ireland, it will be well to take a summary view of medicine in its entirety, from the earliest ages, in order to establish two propositions, marking carefully the dates and the causes of those corruptions and divisions which have been, even to the present day, so injurious to the public, and so degrading to the profession.
These propositions are,
1st. That the office of the physician is," to practise and exercise the science of physic, in “either or “all and every his members and parts,”* not excluding surgery.
2nd. That this office—especially in all its fulness and unity—is distinct from, and incompatible with, the trading of the apothecary or the scientific labours of the pharmaceutical chemist.
In order clearly to discern when and wherefore our present divisions have arisen, each of these propositions may be briefly considered at three several epochs
* See 32 Henry VIII, chap. 40. Appendix, p. 17 a.
1st. Among the ancients; or in times prior to the seventh century of the Christian era.
2nd. In the middle ages; or from the seventh to the sixteenth century.
3rd. In modern times; or in times subsequent to that period in which arose the dense clouds of darkness that more or less obscure to the present day all that is pure, good, or true.
Each of these propositions, although requiring only a general consideration throughout ancient and mediæval times, will severally claim a distinct and special application to either of the three divisions of the United Kingdom in modern ages, depicting more fully the course of the corruptions and divisions of medicine in England and Wales, and subsequently viewing their distinctive character in Ireland and Scotland.
The former proposition, considered during the first period of time, needs but an affirmation : it is acknowledged by all, as regards THE OFFICE OF THE
PHYSICIAN AMONG THE ANCIENTS.
History, sacred as well as profane, attests the duties attaching to him who exercised that office. The Old Testament exhibits the ancient physician, especially in the exercise of surgery, amongst the Jewish nation : so also ere medicine had assumed the name of a science, in the streets of Babylon, in and around the temples of Serapis in Egypt, of Æsculapius in Greece-columns and tablets recorded not only the names and diseases of those who had resorted thither for relief, but also the remedies by which they were restored to health.
Thus was conveyed to future ages the experience of the past, and by this rude but valued mode of clinical instruction was accumulated a mass of practical medicine, without any exclusion of external wounds, injuries, or diseases, which, indeed, formed the chief if not the only part of medicine known at that remote period.
From the time of Æsculapius—whose sons, Podalirius and Machaon, earned more honour for surgery than any other branch of medicine at the Trojan war --to that of Hippocrates, such was the practice of medicine; each sufferer, at the temple of his offended deity, sought at the hands of his priest-physician that relief which, though enveloped in much of superstitious rites and ceremonies, combined therewith the use of natural means, and was denied to none. Herein was laid the foundation of the healing art, till, in the seventeenth generation, direct from Æsculapius, arose the master-mind of Hippocrates, who, adding reason to the results of experience, earned for himself the name of the “Father of Medicine,” and for medicine the rank of a science, distinct from, though ever associated with, philosophy.*
* Pythagoras had, by connecting medicine with the schools of philosophy two centuries previously, loosened its attachment to the priestly superstitions, and thereby paved the way for Hippocrates.
The writings of Hippocrates, Celsus, Galen, Oribasius, Aëtius, Paulus Ægineta, are sufficient authority amongst the ancients to connect the practice of surgery with the physician's office.* Their works are too well known to require any detailed extracts. Those of Paulus, who closes the list of ancient authors on medicine, may aloneas now published by the Sydenham Society, with the learned commentary of Dr. Adams-suffice for the purpose; but to show the rules laid down by Hippocrates for forming a physician, the following quotation may be excused :
“ Life is so short, and the art we exercise so long, that the study of it should be begun in the earliest youth. Have you a pupil you would educate for the practice of medicine, examine leisurely whether his genius be adapted to the art. Has he received from nature an exquisite discernment, a sound judgment, a character in which mildness and firmness are combined, the love of labour, and an inclination to what is amiable and praiseworthy, you will entertain well-founded hopes. Does he suffer with the sufferings of others; does he naturally feel the tenderest commiseration for the woes incident to his fellowmortals : you will reasonably infer that he will be passionately devoted to an art that will instruct him in what manner to afford them relief.
* For the names of others who associated the practice of surgery with the physician's office, from the time of Hippocrates to that of Harvey, see Chart.