Page images
[ocr errors]

indigestions by fasting and exercise; and, at any rate, the possible danger of a relapse is infinitely preferable to the sure evils of the poison-drug. A few repetitions of the stimulant process may initiate the alcohol-vice and sow the seeds of a life-long crop of woe and misery. A single dose of alcoholic tonics may revive the fatal passion of half-cured drunkards, and forfeit their hard-earned chance of recovery. That chance, and life itself, often depend on the hope of guarding the system against a relapse of the stimulant-fever, and I would as soon snatch a plank from a drowning man as that last hope from a drunkard.

Alcohol lingers in our hospitals as slavery lingers in South America, as torture lingers in the courts of eastern Europe. Quacks prescribe it because it is the cheapest stimulant; routine doctors prescribe it because its stimulating effect is more infallible than that of other poisons; empirists prescribe it at the special request of their patients, or as a temporary prophylactic; others because they find it in the ready-made formulas of their dispensatories. There is another reason which I might forbear mentioning, but I hold that a half-truth is a half-untruth, and I will name that other reason: Ignorant patients demand an immediate effect. They send for a doctor, and are to pay his bill; they expect to get their money's worth in the form of a prompt and visible result. Instead of telling the im-patient that he must commit himself into the hands of Nature, that she will cure him in her own good time, by a process of her own, and that all art can do for him is to give that process the best possible chance, and prevent a willful interruption of

it-instead of saying anything of the kind, Sangrado concludes to humor the popular prejudice and to produce the desired prompt and visible effect. For that purpose alcohol is, indeed, the most reliable agent. It will spur the jaded system into a desperate effort to expel the intruder, though the strength expended in that effort should be ever so urgently needed for better purposes. The dose is administered; the patient can not doubt that a "change" of some kind or other has been effected; the habitual drunkard perhaps feels it to be a (momentary) change for the better; at all events, the doctor has done something, and proved that he can "control the disease." In some exceptional cases of that sort the influence of imagination may help to cure a believing patient, or Nature may be strong enough to overcome the disease and the stimulant at one effort. And if a doctor can reconcile it with his conscience to risk such experiments, how shall we prevent it? As a first step in the right direction, we can refuse to swallow his prescription. Physicians have no right to experiment on the health of their patients. They have no right to expect that we shall stake our lives on the dogmas of the old stimulant theory till they have answered the objections of the naturalistic school.

Drastic drugs are not wholly useless. There are two or three forms of disease which have (thus far) not proved amenable to any non-medicinal cure, and can hardly be trusted to the healing power of Nature -the lues venera, scabies, and prurigo-because, as a French physiologist suggests, "the cause and the symptoms are here, for once, identical, the probable

proximate cause being the agency of microscopic parasites, which oppose to the action of the vital forces a life-energy of their own." Antidotes and certain anodynes will perhaps also hold their own till we find a way of producing their effects by mechanical means.

But, with these rare exceptions, it is by far the safer as well as shorter way to avoid drugs, reform our habits, and not interrupt the course of Nature, for, properly speaking, “disease itself is a healing process." "It is not true," says Dr. Jennings, "that the human system, when disturbed and deranged in its natural operations, becomes suicidal in its action; . . . such a view presents an anomaly in the universe of God's physical government. It is not in accordance with the known operations and manifestations of other natural laws" ("Medical Reform," p. 129). 66 The idea that the symptoms of disease must be suppressed," says Bichat, "has led to innumerable fallacies and blunders."

Dr. Benjamin Rush said in a public lecture: "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 weak

ness of our profession. I am pursuing Truth, and am indifferent whither I am led, if she only is my leader."

"Our system of therapeutics," says Jules Virey, "is so shaky (vacillant) that the soundness of the basis itself must be suspected."

· · •

"The success of the homoeopathic practice has astonished many discerning minds," says Dr. Jennings. "It is unnecessary for my present purpose to give a particular account of the results of homoeopathy; what I now claim with respect to it is, that a wise and beneficent Providence is using it to expose a deep delusion. In the result of homoeopathic practice we have evidence in amount, and of a character sufficient, most incontestably to establish the fact that disease is a restorative process, a renovating operation, and that medicine has deceived us. The evidence is full and complete. It does not consist merely 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 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 homoopathy may be regarded as a providential sealing of the fate of old medical views and practices" ("Medical Reform," p. 247).


Since physiology was first studied methodically, an overwhelming array of facts has, indeed, proved

that the disorders of the human organism can be cured more easily without poison-drugs; more easily in the very degree that would suggest the suspicion that our entire system of therapeutics is founded upon an erroneous view of disease. The homœopathists cure their patients with milk-sugar, the exponents of the movement-cure with gymnastics, the hydropathists with cold water, the disciples of Dr. Schrodt with exercise and mountain-air, the primitive Christians with prayer; Nature cures her children with rest and a partial suspension of the digestive process (the fasting cure, indicated instinctively by a loss of appetite). But all repudiate alcohol, and all can record swifter, more numerous, and more permanent cures than the disciples of the nostrum school.

Considered in connection with the foregoing remarks, these facts admit only of one conclusion, and, after giving the above-mentioned exception the benefit of a (temporary) doubt, we can assert with perfect confidence that drastic drugs have no remedial value, and that every drop of alcohol administered for medicinal purposes has not decreased but increased the weight of human misery.

There is no doubt but that these views will awaken the anathemas of the poison-worshippers; but it is equally certain that, before the end of this century, they will become truisms. We should regard the drift of the main current rather than the incidental fluctuations of scientific theories; and all the ripple of conflicting opinions can not conceal the progress of a strong tendency toward total abstinence from all virulent drugs.

« PreviousContinue »