The Past, Present and Future of Medicine.
Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
Authority and precedents were little respected by Professor Scudder. The shackles of the past fastened by so-called authority he blamed for the lack of progress in medicine. Repeatedly throughout his editorial career did he plead for release from authority, and that the physician do his own thinking and observing. In this editorial he prophesies that specific medication, not then announced as a doctrine, would be the future practice of medicine. In our own ranks he was bitterly fought when it was announced, and for years after-ward. To-day not an Eclectic college exists that does not make specific medication the most prominent feature of its curriculum.—Ed. Gleaner.
THE PAST, THE PRESENT, AND THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE.— Our heading presents a subject broad enough for a volume, but I desire only to draw a wholesome truth or two from its consideration. The past of medicine is the incubus that weighs down and blocks the wheels of progress in the present. The medical profession is ever looking back; is ever seeking for precedent and authority; and is ever measuring the present by the rules of departed centuries. The Bible story of Lot's wife is but the representation of a universal truth, the truth of revelation and of nature— "look not behind you." And the result of disobedience is always the same, "and she became a pillar of salt," in modern phraseology fossilized.
We care nothing for the past only as it has given us the means to improve the present, and provide for the future. When we look at it, it is the age of bigotry, intolerance, imperfect observation, and crude and fallacious reasoning, and yet it is this that has wholly controlled medicine up to within a few years past, and still controls it with many. The administration of medicine has been the great humbug of the world, and no farce was ever played so well and with such serious countenances. Hogarth's group of physicians, so quaintly and humorously expressing the gravity of self-complacency and ignorance, is the type of the past, and I am sorry to say, is repeated too frequently at the present day.
The present is hopeful in that there is a tendency in the leading minds of the profession to renounce the authority of the past, and to replace precedent with well-defined principles. We are not the only radicals in medicine, and our old-school friends are beginning to find that the enemy within their camp is as formidable as the enemy without. It is not necessary now to go outside of the regular fold to hear denunciations of blood-letting, mercury, and its associates, and the pretensions of phlogosis and antiphlogistics held up to ridicule; nor to find men who charge the old system of medicine with murder. True, they do not say directly as I do, that it was guilty of the murder of from ten to thirty per cent, but they do show clearly that whilst the bills of mortality under the old practice were from twenty to fifty per cent, with diet and rest they are but two to five.
The older practice of medicine was wholly empirical, though theories were formed to suit the apparent results. Physiology was in its infancy, and chemistry was hardly known, and worse still, the natural cause of diseased action had never been observed. With the development of the first two, and correct observations of the nature, cause, phenomena, and duration of certain diseases, have been evolved certain principles which now form a very good guide to a rational practice.
So soon as a man shakes himself loose from the past, looking no longer for precedent and authority, but is willing to learn from the present, he is in harmony with the spirit of the age; and especially if he can make himself admit the wondrous adaptation of means to ends throughout the universe, and to which man is no exception, he will be willing to trust more to nature and be guilty of less interference with her processes.
The present is emphatically the age of progress, and in no department of thought or industry is it more marked than in medicine. If a man depends upon the knowledge of but ten years back he is far behind the age. And this progress is more marked in a lessening of the death-rate from disease than in any other direction. There is nothing new known of anatomy, and but few new discoveries in physiology, but there have been careful observations of the natural course of diseased action, and comparing these with well-established physiological facts, a new practice is rapidly being developed. If then a man desires to keep up with the advance movement in medicine it is necessary that he should free himself from the bondage of old prejudices, of old theories, and of old therapeutic dogmas, and then if conversant with the current medical literature of the day, a new practice on a rational basis will soon be developed.
The future of medicine will be all that its most ardent students have ever dreamed, "when medicine will be administered with results quite as certain as are ever attained by man." The day of specific medication is now dawning, and we have very marked evidences of its superiority over the older plans. If we had but the one class of remedies—the special sedatives—to bring forward as examples, it would be sufficient to show what we might expect in the future. But we have a score of such remedies, and others are being added, and what is most strange, some of them are found in remedies which have been employed for centuries.
In this future there will be no Allopathy, Homeopathy, Eclecticism, or other pathy, but a common point of meeting where the truth is developed. This common ground would be sooner reached if men could free themselves from codes of ethics and from the prejudices which underlie them. These prejudices are giving way, and the shackles of society ethics are being thrown off, and though there may be but a few score of old-school physicians who would dare to meet an Eclectic or Homeopath in consultation, there are thousands who read their works and profit by them.— SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1868.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.