Reasons for Existence.
Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
Dr. Scudder was an advocate of the broadest liberty so long as the rights of all were conserved. This article is a timely one for the present when medical cliques would assume the right to dictate who or who should not practice the art of medicine. A sound medical education should be the only legal requirement for that right. Rival sects in medicine, like competition in business, act as incentives to more perfect preparation for the great work of the physician.—Ed. Gleaner.
REASONS FOE EXISTENCE.—If every man had to give good reasons why he should live, there would be a wonderful decrease in population. If every man had to give reasons why he should pursue his special line of business, there would be much trouble in the land. If every one of the hundred sects in religion were required to give reasons for their existence, we should be nearly deafened by the outcry of those on their special road to heaven. And yet one of the leading schools of medicine, which numbers over twelve thousand practitioners, is asked to give reasons why it should live.
In these United States has not a man "the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in his own way? I have been taught that he has? Do we interfere with our neighboring physicians? Only in taking the patients by honest competition. They offer the community medical service; we offer them a different quality of medical service. Have the people not the right to take ours in preference to theirs?
If the people have learned that regular drugging is not a good thing, and that the sick get along better with small doses of pleasant remedies given for direct action, is it not their right to take what they think best? Do you claim that they should be forced to take your nasty potions and your poisons?
Have you not taught the people through long years of trial that mercury, antimony, arsenic, and blood-letting were to be avoided? Have you not shown them that the antiphlogistic treatment was a failure and a curse? True, you did not intend to teach them, but we came on the stage to point the lessons and draw the moral.
Have you not said time and again, when you were in an honest mood, that medicine was uncertain, and that no man could tell when he gave a drug just what the result would be?— "that if all the drugs were at the bottom of the sea it would be better for mankind, though it might be worse for the fishes?"
Have you not made it impossible for physicians to work with you, if they said a word against mercury, antimony, or bleeding? Did you ever permit free speech, a free press, or even free thought? Never? Could I live with you and work with you for the good of medicine? No. You would turn me out of your local, your State, your National societies within the year. You would burn my books at the stake, and it would only be the strong arm of the law that would prevent your roasting me with them.
When you talk about one practice of medicine by taking the best of our school into yours, and letting the remainder go to the "demnition bow-wows," you can chew some of these problems and get the result without much experimentation.
The difference between the schools is so wide that it can not be bridged. We believe in the certainty of remedies; you hold that drugs are uncertain. We believe that there are symptoms in disease pointing to the remedy; you do not. We treat the varying conditions of morbid life as manifested by symptoms; you treat names of disease. Our diagnosis of disease is especially for the selection of the remedy or remedies; you to give a correct name, or to determine the pathological changes.
You have a great many men in your ranks that think much as I do; we have quite a considerable number who would make very good old-school physicians. But these prefer their present affiliation, and we believe in the largest liberty. In so far as education is considered, we will compare our Cincinnati college with the best you have. In regard to journals and books—circulation and number bought being the standard of measurement—we will compare with you at any time.
When the millennium dawns, and you are ready for perfect medical liberty, under the law which punishes malpractice, then we will take you by the hand and say there shall be but one practice of medicine.—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1890.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.