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THE

MEDICAL PROFESSION

AND ITS

EDUCATIONAL AND LICENSING BODIES.

PART 1.-THE MEDICAL PROFESSION. "HOMINES ad deos nullâ re proprius accedunt quàm salutem hominibus dando." Such was the conception of even the heathen philosopher of the greatness of medicine ; and his words, which form the motto of the Carmichael student prizes, may well be prefixed to this essay. To dwell on the benefits the science of medicine has conferred on mankind, and is still more capable of conferring, may seem superfluous; but, inasmuch as it confessedly does not hold that rank to which its importance entitles it, I shall here briefly enumerate its objects and its powers.

Medicine has too often been regarded as merely an art for curing the sick, whereas its field is vastly more extensive. The preservation of the health of individuals and of communities by the exercise of all the laws of hygienic science, the prohibition of adulterations in articles of food and of medicines, the management of public institutions as regards ventilation, diet, or prevention of contagion, and the suppression of epidemics, form also its most legitimate objects. How invaluable is its aid in relation to the laws concerning lunacy, the discovery of crime, and such subjects of vital interest to the State ? A great poet aptly translates the words of the greatest :

“The learn'd physician, skilled our wounds to heal,

Is more than armies to the public weal.” The eloquent author of “ Ecce Homo" exclaims : “No man who loves his kind can in these days be con

2

PREVENTION OF DISEASE.

tent with waiting as a servant upon human misery, when it is possible in so many cases to anticipate and avert it. Prevention is better than cure ; and it is now clear to all that a large part of human suffering is preventible by improved social arrangements.

When the sick man has been visited, and everything done which skill and assiduity can do to cure him, modern charity will go on to consider the causes of his malady-what noxious influence besetting his life—what contempt of the laws of health in his diet or habits may have caused it, and then to inquire whether others incur the sartie dangers, and may be warned in time.

Christ commanded his first followers to heal the sick and give alms; but He commands the Christians of this age—if we may use the expression—to investigate the causes of all physical evil, to master the science of health, to consider the question of education with a view to health, the question of labour with a view to health, the question of trade with a view to health ; and, while all these investigations are made with free

expense

of
energy

and time and means, to work out the re-arrangement of human life in accordance with the results they give.”

Even the humblest duties of the practitioner are not ignoble, although they may be inglorious. Medicine is, moreover, both in itself and the numerous other sciences it embraces, a great division of humanizing and mindenlarging knowledge. If it be remembered that the human body is surpassingly complex, and that the circumstances which affect it are numerous and varied, it must be allowed that it is more difficult than any other branch of knowledge, and those who are masters in medicine deserve the respect of all intellectual men.

Beyond services in the prevention and cure of disease, the members of the medical profession have in all ages been distinguished for their scholarly and scientific pre-eminence. John Locke, Zimmermann, Goldsmith, Smollett, Crabbe, Sir James Mackintosh, Lord Erskine,

LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC PHYSICIANS.

Sir William Petty, Linnæus, Sir Hans Sloane (an Irishman, by the way), Lavoisier, Gilbert, the discoverer of the magnet, and R. Owen, may be mentioned as a few examples, some of whom became diverted to more favoured callings. The newspaper press owes much to the medical profession ; in New York alone there are at present 25 medical men on the editing list. A large proportion of the fellows of the Royal Society—that most renowned of institutions, whose fellowship is so real a mark of scientific repute--indeed, the blue ribbon of science—have been always medical men.

It lately had for its president Sir B. Brodie, who esteemed the honour higher than a peerage. In some little provincial imitations of the Royal Society, however, medical practitioners are not favourably received. In opposing the claims of medicine to rank as a science, it is often alleged that discoveries in it are rare. That may be so ; but such a discovery as that of anæsthetics, which give almost a foretaste of the millennium, is enough to mark a century.

The literary and scientific work of physicians has always had, and will continue to have, with the educated public a large effect in elevating their profession, and removing them from the character of mere successful traders. In a great capital such employment of leisure time will improve instead of injuring a physician's practice; but in provincial cities, where prejudices prevail, or where small-minded rivals will be found to condemn such studies, or praise him who pursues them, exclusively for them, alleging that he does not care for practice," patients will be thus diminished.

If, however, the biographies of medical men be studied, or lists of their writings fully made out, it will be found that every great one among them had varied the routine and fatigue

of practice by other studies. It may be that to these pursuits they sacrificed the leisure hours which other practitioners wasted in bed, frittered away in society, or employed in the various modes of touting

4

UNSELFISH DEVOTION.

for patients. In his autobiography, Sir B. Brodie says, “The study of anatomy and physiology generally, without limiting my views merely to that which is required for surgical practice, led me to scientific inquiries, which for

many years afterwards formed a most agreeable addition to the drudgery of my every-day duties.” The cultivation of the accessory sciences also tends to preserve medicine as a noble profession to be followed with disinterested zeal, as in the days of the Father of Medicine, and not as a trade for the procuring of a livelihood only.

As to the unselfish and philanthropic exertions of the medical profession, it may be unnecessary to adduce testimony which is freely accorded by the just and learned. Dr. Johnson said, “I believe every man has found in physicians great liberality and dignity of sentiment, very prompt effusion of beneficence, and willingness to exert a lucrative art where there is no hope of lucre.” Sir William Temple, speaking of the relative advantages of the professions, says,

" Whereas the soldiers seem to have had the most honour, the lawyers the most money, and the physicians the most learning." In the words of Carlyle, “ The profession of the human healer is naturally a sacred one, and connected with the highest priesthoods, or rather in itself the outcome and acme of all priesthoods and divinest conquests here below."

No class of the community is so generally free from mercenary

motives; for while large fortunes are amassed by a few of the more eminent of the profession, the benevolence of all produces indifference to pecuniary considerations. Of none more truthfully than of the benevolent physicians who have laboured among our poor during epidemics can it be said, that they lived for their fellow-creatures, not themselves.

There were attacked with fever between 1819 and 1843, 560, or one-half of the physicians of Irish public institutions; and in 1847, 123, or two-thirds of the entire deaths of medical practitioners, were due to that

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