Why do we Use the Term Specific?

Selected writings of John M. Scudder.

Why we adopted the term Specific is well stated in the editorial by Dr. Scudder. Others have sought to substitute the word Direct for Specific, but time has decided in favor of the original, for we seldom now hear the term "direct medication." See also editorial titled "Specific."—Ed. Gleaner.

WHY DO WE USE THE TERM SPECIFIC?—A correspondent writes: "I think the selection of the word 'specific' was very impolitic to say the least; for the profession is prejudiced against it, and it is a cardinal doctrine that—'there are no specifics' "

Another writes: "I know why you took the term specific—it appeals to popular prejudice, the people believe in and want specifics. It is sharp practice."

Here are two distinct opinions; which is correct? One does not want people to believe that he has not the capacity to take the better way—be polite, any more than he wants them to believe that he is guilty of sharp practice.

There were two reasons influencing the writer in adopting the word specific, to express what he believes to be a rational practice of medicine. The one is, that the ordinary signification of the word conveys the ideas of definiteness and certainty, and there is no word that expresses it so certainly and that is so universally understood. The single word tells the entire story, and there can be no misunderstandings if we discard the common nosology, and restrict its application to pathological processes—or conditions of disease.

The popular conception of the province of medicine is the true one. The people know that remedies should be specific, if they are not; and if they appreciated the professional axiom—"there are no specifics," they would think less of physicians than they do. But their popular idea could not have been a motive, for we reach the profession, not the people.

The second reason is found in the quotation from our first correspondent—the profession are prejudiced against specifics. If now we present a new doctrine, which has to overcome popular prejudice, it will be thoroughly examined, carefully tested, and adopted only if proven true. And this is what we desire for everything that is presented in these pages. Surely we can have no object in foisting error on our readers, or in doing that which will necessarily be undone. Men make neither reputation nor fortune in this way. Therefore we prefer to have prejudice arrayed against the new doctrine, as its reception will be evidence of its truth.—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1872.

The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.