—By ——— Kokomo, Ind.
On page 421, September number of the Eclectic Medical Journal, may be found a detailed account of a case of Puerperal Convulsions by Dr. Humphreys, which closes as follows: "The mother and child well and doing well up to this time (July 10), two living monuments of the triumph of Specific Medication."
Now we are willing to admit the monuments and the triumph, but fail to discern the evidence of Specific Medication. When the doctor was first called, before the convulsions came on, he prescribed Chloroform by inhalation, Veratrum, Gelseminum, and Bromide of Potash, per stomach and Cantharidal Callodion to be applied along the spine. The latter he is "quite sure did no good whatever." Query: Might not the doctor as reasonably conclude that neither of his preparations did any good, inasmuch as the convulsions came on any how. After the convulsions came on, we find him giving Chloroform freely for five or six hours with but a slight modification of the paroxysms About this time the child is born and the mother fell asleep for an hour. Now the question is, was it the Chloroform or the delivery that brought the respite? Evidently the doctor did not think, it was the Chloroform, for we find him flying to Gelseminum when the woman is aroused and the convulsions renewed. Then Veratrum is tried, then Morphia—all failing, he goes back to Chloroform again and keeps it up for a number of hours. Finally, when death seems inevitable, the doctor changes his tactics; if he can not save his patient's life, he will try to save his own reputation. Although he had scouted the idea of venesection when proposed by the Allopath doctor, who had been called, yet in his absence he makes the attempt "to satisfy the husband." But when he cords the arm the veins do not fill; "only blue lines on a parallel with the cutaneous surface" appear, and not a spoonful of blood is obtained. When the cord is removed, the woman convulses more violently and frequently than before. This gives him "food for thought." Now he "knows they are caused by determination on removing the cord." What a mighty gush of blood there must have been from those "blue lines," those "unfilled veins." What rich "food" such an idea gives the mind. So the doctor leaves his patient for a while, in order, I suppose, to give him time to digest it.
On his return in a few hours, he saw signs of determination of blood. So he seizes a basin of cold water and applies it by wet towel and effusion to the head, and gives ten drops of Veratrum again. In ten minutes the woman is asleep and rests an hour without the anaesthetic. On an attempt being made to give more Veratrum, she convulses again. So he leaves her, ordering Chloroform and Veratrum. and in a short time the convulsions cease and the lady makes a good recovery.
If the doctor had not told us which of the several remedies used in the case he considered the specific, I would have been at a loss to know which one to use in a similar case; quite likely I would have chosen Veratrum, and I think his history would lead to such a conclusion. Or quite as likely it would lead some skeptic to query whether any of his medicine did any good. Dr. Humphreys treated his patient with five or six different remedies, changing from one to an other and back again several times in the course of forty-eight hours. And when the harassed woman lives through in spite of the combined furies of the disease and its treatment, he pops up and says, There now! Specific Medicine did that! And seems to think it clinches the arguments in favor of that theory.
Such stuff nearly approaches the ridiculous. Chloroform may be a Specific for puerperal convulsions, but Dr. Humphreys' case, as reported. fails to show any evidence of it. And then at one time he says : "Having got the patient completely under the influence of Chloroform," etc. And in conclusion, he says, she "inhaled twenty-four ounces of Chloroform without producing profound anaesthesia at any time." How is that, doctor?
The Eclectic Medical Journal, Vol. XXXIV, 1874, was edited by John M. Scudder, M.D.