Honesty is the Best Policy.
Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
The student who enters college and wastes his time, thereby failing to prepare himself in the best manner possible for his chosen life work, is not honest. Human life hangs upon the knowledge and efforts of the doctor, and if he has failed to do his best in preparing himself to care for that life he is dishonest. From his first to his last editorial Dr. Scudder enforces the lesson of honesty in all things, and this is one of the greatest heritages he has left to the medical world at large.—Ed. Gleaner.
HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY.—I have been charged with sermonizing, and some of our subscribers have thought that this should be left to the ministers. (?) But bless your hearts, they are impractical folk, living up in the wind, trying to find angels, and shaping the earthly life by hopes of heaven or the fear of hell. To all of this I do not object, and bid them God-speed. But in medicine I prefer my experience, and I give it in the head-line — "Honesty is the best policy." It is not in the Scripture, but it should be.
Honesty is a sterling quality, and applies to every act of this life, and probably of every other. For as we see it, everything in the universe has this quality, from our sun and moon to the last sun and planet in the universe, and only fails when we come to creatures that have wills of their own, and an ability to do for themselves. Policy is a low motive, but one of man's chief possessions, and the one that guides him in most actions. It is the individual well being that is continually looked after. Honesty does not consist in keeping your hands off your neighbor's property, keeping inside the law, and paying your debts, but applies to every act of life; and policy equally concerns all that a man does, and is, as well as getting his share of this world's goods.
Having defined the terms and cleared the way for the argument, we will see how "honesty is the best policy" in medicine.
To the student about to commence the study of medicine, I have said, and now repeat, "If you can make up your mind that honesty is the best policy in medicine, you will succeed. If you can not, you will be a fraud or a failure, and had better give your attention to something else."
A man commencing the study of medicine should realize that he proposes to deal with life and health, man's chief possessions. Honesty requires that he should fit himself to give the best service to his patrons; anything less than the best he can attain is dishonesty. I should rather a man would steal my money, fail to pay his debts to me, or do almost anything regarded as dishonest, rather than that he should take charge of my life and health with but the pretense of a good preparation for the work.
This is straight preaching, and every one can understand it. The student agrees to do this preparatory work; his study of anatomy is "honesty," so is that of physiology, chemistry, materia medica, practice, surgery, and obstetrics. He is under bond, as it were, to his parents, his preceptor, the college, and his future patrons, to do the work well. Here our text gives the reward— "The best policy"—the good things of the profession—come to those who do honest work.
Both students and physicians are under similar bond that they will be educated gentlemen, and leading men in the community for all good work, whether it be sanitary, educational, or moral. Here honesty is by far the best policy.
Coming now to the doctor in his work, our maxim applies itself continually. One promises to give good and faithful service. One promises that the sick shall have the best medicines, the best care, the best food, the best of everything looking to health. As the doctor redeems these promises comes success, credit, and a larger and better patronage. One tactily promises that he will be a free man, without prejudice against others, examining all things, and holding fast that which is good. I believe that here, also, "honesty is the best policy," even though the narrow and hidebound sometimes have success.
In pharmacy the current opinion seems to have been that our text is a fraud and deception. Medicines have been made to sell, and the less value the larger the profit. Worthless stuff palmed off for good, inefficient medicines for those of value, secret and proprietary medicines for open and good pharmacy. I do not see what kind of instruction these people could have had, but I can assure them that "honesty is the best policy."—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1891.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.