Imágenes de páginas


90 the vulgar were brought to believe in the nostrum thus patronised. It must be also confessed that the scholarly have also credited and profited by absurd nostrums; for example, the “Sympathetic Powder," which was alleged to cure people at a distance, was the composition of the most refined gentleman of the seventeenth century, Sir Kenelm Digby. Such renowned surgeons as Cheselden, Cæsar Hawkins, and Sharp signed a petition to the House of Commons, on which Mrs. Stephens was granted £5,000 for divulging her remedy for dissolving stone in the bladder. It consisted of calcined eggshells and snails, or lime obtained by a filthy process. Its inutility was shortly proved by the death of the famous Dr. Hartley by calculus, after he had taken 200 lbs. of the remedy! He had been one of her main advocates. « Touching" for the evil was approved of by Wiseman, the most illustrious surgeon of the seventeenth century; and by his advice 92,107 scrofulous persons were touched by Charles II.

Instances of superstition and credulity in medical matters have afforded matter for volumes-in fact, they have been rich carcasses on which the worms of quackery have fattened. Where the malady is mental, as is the case with the complaints of weak-minded hysterical women or half-witted enervated hypochondriacal men, the remedy should be mental. Every hospital and dispensary attendant, still more easily every practitioner in fashionable life, can call to mind cases in which patients believed themselves cured by inert medicines, faith in the prescriber's skill having really wrought the core. Dispensary patients told to put on that plaster” or " take that medicine," have stuck to their chest the paper upon which the prescription was written or swallowed it, and at the next visit expressed themselves relieved. The homeopaths may allege that in such cases the iron in the ink has really produced the amendment. I may here remark that it is far more becoming



in the physician to dissipate by explicit reasonings and persuasion the hallucinations of weak-minded and dyspeptic patients than to promise relief by inert remedies. To extract money under such circumstances is dishonorable. Accordingly as medicine improves its position as a well-defined science, quackery will wane. The principles of surgery are more positive, and therefore there are no quacks assuming that branch of the profession, unless those who vaunt their doings to the public can be so regarded.

Extravagant laudation for services of some value is the characteristic of the charlatan ; thus the commercial speculator who introduced that valuable hygienic agent the Turkish bath into this country, has been with infinite absurdity compared to Harvey and Jenner, whose glorious and unselfish achievements have rendered their names immortal.

In combating this hydra-headed monster, which has from the days of the mountebank constantly afflicted these lands, I shall briefly and as dispassionately as possibly discuss the claims for credit which its more successful and definite forms possess. So far from its being to the pecuniary interest of medical practitioners that quackery should be suppressed, many of their weightest “ cases” are to be debited to it. It is therefore disinterested in our profession to expose


suppress such a client.

The medical profession has never sought laws to abolish quackery that they might have the greater monopoly, but to protect the public against fraud and injury to health.

Firstly of homeopathy, as it is one of the most longlived and has obtained adherents of more weight than other systems. It has been fashionably patronised in Dublin, and the valuable life of one of the most distinguished citizens was lately sacrificed by its practice. Specifics in medicine do not probably exist ; but bark, in the care of ague, approaches more nearly to that character



than any other agent. No satisfactory explanation of its action has been determined, and therapeutists content themselves with the term “ antiperiodic,” as it seems to check the return of the ague-fit at its accustomed intervals. Hahnemann, while translating the Materia Medica of the great Cullen, resolved to settle the question, and took, although in health, some of that drug. He forthwith announced that he was, after the taking of this agent, and therefore because he took it (a most common and dangerous fallacy in medical experience), seized with the disease in curing which it has such surprising power. On this foundation he built the system of homeopathy (Sonos-rabos), adopting for his motto, similia similibus curantur. His countrymen, who always delight in such novel and visionary theories, gave implicit credence, and would have raised him to the highest pinnacle of fame, or indeed almost deified him. Few can fail to be struck with the contrast this behaviour presents with the reception of real discoveries, which have often served only to heap on their originators obloquy and persecution. Ignorance of physiological subjects and the credulity which it inspires have, as is the case with all quackeries, supported homeopathy. Sir J. Simpson relates a ludicrous instance in which faith alone must have cured the patients. The globules of a practitioner got mixed thoroughly and then

divided into their bottles by some children in sport; yet with these several astounding cures of divers diseases were afterwards reported. The principal doctrines which homeopathic manifestoes promulgate are—1st. That as certain drugs given internally will produce disease ar symptoms of disease, these drugs are the appropriate remedies for these maladies when they arise spontaneously, e. g. for erysipelas such medicines as will produce redness of the skin, for leucorrhæa, leucorrhine (!), and for syphilis, syphiline (!). A knowledge of the human organisation is quite superfluous, and indeed other branches of the



medical science, as these remedies are merely addressed to symptoms. By a lately advertised homæopathic nostrum, relief is promised for facial neuralgia by painting it over the motor nerve of the face, the inventor being ignorant that it has no connexion with sensibility. 2nd. That all maladies of a chronic nature arise from syphilis, sycosis, or psora ; this latter agent, imaginary unless its English translation " the itch" be allowed, produces a crowd of heterogeneous maladies, from fungus hæmatodes to hypochondriasis, which appear to ordinary mortals somewhat dissimilar, as well as most of the moral turpitude which disgraces humanity. Amongst other remedies for psora, and especially for aiding “ spiritual conversion,” the swallowing of lice, or a decoction of them, is gravely recommended, as these creatures tickle the skin. The 3rd fundamental principle is, that medicines act in doses infinitely more minute than generally supposed. The billionth of the murderous quantities which allopaths administer is sufficient. They admit the existence of various temperaments, and therefore cautiously advise that not more than a dose of sulphur shall be given to an excitable person every fourteen days! They prescribe a decillionth of a grain, which is so small a proportion that if every being on the globe were to take this dose momentarily they would not finish the grain for thousands of years. They have invented a safe way of administering medicines-namely, the smelling of a phial containing an infinitesimal globule of the required drug; and it is said that a lady treated by this mode fairly remunerated her prescriber by passing a guinea under his nose and then replacing it in her pocket.

Hahnemann promises to restore “a morbidly desponding individual, with a constant inclination to commit suicide, in less than an hour to a peaceful state of mind, to love of life, to happiness and horror of his contemplated act, if he perform but a simpleo lfaction in



the phial," containing a dose of gold so diluted that a grain would require for its preparation & mass of sugar fifty times larger than the earth!

It has been lately ascertained that flames will pop ap and down accordingly as sounds of different pitch are produced near them; the observer of this fact has publicly attempted to draw an analogy between it and the assumptions that the human body will be affected by medicinal agents of almost incredible minuteness, and that persons en rapport with a mesmerist will obey his will. Such explanations may suffice for credulous persons ignorant of physiology, or for those whom mechanical studies have muddled. Again, homoeopaths assert that the activity of medicines is increased in a regular ratio to the number of shakes the bottle containing them receives. Truth has limits, absurdity indeed has none. People will believe in medical absurdities who will reason soundly on aught else in nature, and there seems no folly so ridiculous that it will not find minds fitted to adopt it. To any physician who may be at all wavering, the best cure is the perusal of a homeopathic work. For the practice of homeopathy implicit obedience is exacted, but that it is not rendered is certain ; for homeoquacks, although professing disbelief in the teachings of medicine (the ranks of which they have left, as by pandering to these fashionable and ephemeral foibles they acquire more lucre in proportion to their knowledge), give ordinary doses of medicines, selecting for lesser bulk the active principle. The adoption of any allopathic method is directly dishonest, as they all profess, or in some instances have publicly sworn, to ignore them.

Many cases of overdosing with active medicines have been authoritatively recorded ; for instance, that proved by Professor A. S. Taylor, where a lady was poisoned by an overdose of morphia, and that of the Duke di Cannizzaro, who perished from nux vomica, administered

« AnteriorContinuar »