Be Kind to the Sick.
Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
No matter how kindly the attending physician felt toward the sick, Prof. Scudder still regarded him as unkind if he used harsh medicines where mild and pleasant medication would suffice. In no way would he embitter the illness of a child or drug-torture the incurable if there was a possible mild method of treatment to be used. His ministrations were ever a beatitude to the sick and the suffering.—Ed. Gleaner.
BE KIND TO THE SICK.—I have seen so much unkindness to the sick, and so much suffering from medicine, that I feel justified in frequently reminding my readers that the sick need "kindness," and that medicines should be pleasant to the taste, pleasant in the stomach, and kindly in their effects on the economy. I hear the reply, "O, I am as kind as a doctor can be; I am employed to cure people, and not to give sugar pills." Good! Let us weigh you in your own balances. We will let you take your own medicines for a week or two—your Podophyllin, or "compound cathartic pills;" your emetics, nauseants, diaphoretics, diuretics, fomentations, poultices, blisters, irritating plasters, etc., with quinine enough to keep your ears ringing. When you are through you may decide upon the "kindness" of the medicines. We will compare your success with the smallest of "sugar pills," in the range of disease you meet in a year, and then we can determine whether your unpleasant medication "cures the sick."
I shall be answered again with the old adage, "the surgeon's knife is merciful." So it is when rightly used, but how much it has been abused! We congratulate ourselves now upon the success of surgical treatment, and the abandonment of the knife where it was thought to be necessary.
I have had quite a long and large experience, and I have fought disease with the old and harsh medicines, and with the new and kindly medicines, and I know that the last are the best, even when we take into consideration the saving of life, shortening the duration of disease, and relief of present suffering. I look back on the old methods of drugging, and some people's present methods of drugging, with the same feelings of disgust and horror that I look back upon the thumb-screw, the cat, the rack, and other instruments of torture.
I have had it tried upon my own body, and I can recall the exquisite tortures of old-fashioned purgation, of irritant remedies that gave rise to a thirst equalling that of Dives, of blisters that seemed to be eating into my vitals, and of that deathly sickness that prayed for death as a boon. I have seen others suffer all this, even within the past year, and I know that years will pass before the practice entirely disappears.
We flatter ourselves that as a school we are pretty free from the sin of drugging, and I believe that to a considerable extent we are, and yet I know that we have much to get rid of yet. Many physicians never think of treating a patient without irritant cathartics; very many drug their patients with quinine until every nerve is in a state of tension; very many make every prescription nauseous, as if nastiness was a good quality in medicine.
I recall the old practice in diseases of children as being especially unpleasant; and the little fellows were unpleasantly prejudiced against the doctor. It was almost as good as a whipping to threaten a child with the doctor or with medicine. Now the physician is the child's favorite (the small dose physician), and it is a pleasure to see them gather around one when he visits the house. It is also a pleasure to treat the little ones. The remedies are nice and clean, tasteless, and their effects are pleasant and certain. I should be willing to rest my claim to kindly consideration when I finish my work, upon the little I have done to make the practice of medicine pleasant for children.
We treat many incurable diseases, and here especially we should be kind to the sick. These cases should be carefully diagnosed, and we may determine without any shadow of doubt that harsh and unpleasant means never have and never will give relief. It always comes from the gentler and kindly action of remedies. It is a most unpleasant thought that we have embittered the last days or weeks of life of some friend or relative by drugging, and every patient should stand in this relation to the physician. Let us make a motto of that familiar couplet—
- "That mercy I to others show,
- That mercy show to me."
—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1877.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.