Independence in Medical Thought and Practice.
Among other excellent things, Dr. George F. Butler, in an address before the Mississippi Valley Medical Association, speaks as follows:
The practice of medicine cannot be improved by a trust. "Hand me down" methods, theories, or dictatorial advice can not aid the intelligent, independent practitioner. Kindly suggestions and the plain, unprejudiced statements of the results of personal, clinical experience are valuable and are welcomed by all liberal and progressive physicians. The time has passed when a few men can successfully set themselves up as authorities, or dictators, or arrogate to themselves any special theory of procedure.
Candid practitioners to-day recognize good in all systems based upon scientific thought and pursued with intelligence and sincerity. By means of release from the shibboleths of the past and adherence to a given "authority" or "school" the freedom of present practice is greatly enhanced, to the immense benefit of the patient and the lasting honor of the physician.
Remembering the function of our profession to be the prevention and cure of disease and the relief of suffering, and remembering that no two cases of disease in the whole history of the medical profession presents identical conditions, it is monstrous for any man or set of men to forbid the use of any method, any instrument or remedy, or any treatment which in the opinion of the attending physician promises success.
I repeat, it is an insult to our independence and intelligence that we are not allowed to read any book or medical journal we please at any time or place, whether in a medical society or in the seclusion of our offices, to use any remedy we please, whether it be so called "regular," "homeopathic" "eclectic," "alkaloidal" or "proprietary," or any method of treatment whatsoever, even though it smack of Christian Science or osteopathy, without being subjected to public ridicule and criticism by a few self appointed "authorities" and "leaders" in medicine.
In the medical profession, as in religion or science, the perils of dominating influence cannot be escaped. While the evils flowing from industrial concentration can be met, the evils that must follow the syndication of intelligence cannot be avoided. As stated before, the struggle of the ages has been the emancipation of truth from authority.
No thoughtful physician can fail to see the immense advantage of a liberal mind in the pursuit of his calling. It is of signal importance that the doctor should not only welcome every advancement in medicine, but he should at all times be willing to put the broadest construction upon opinions conflicting with his own.
Every physician having the interest of his profession and of humanity at heart should admit candidly the value of any method, theory, or practice which may promote the common object of alleviating human misery, taking the generous view of things, without which the pursuit of learning is but a jaundiced, melancholy affair.
Fortunate it is for him who has learned the charity and liberality which characterize all genuinely great or progressive men in every profession. His open heart and intellect are spared many a regret, and throughout his career for him the sun of truth is shining everywhere.
If we find our pathways obscured by shadows it is because we are walking away from the light and not towards it. The sacred flame that glows upon the altar of truth illuminates and cheers only as we approach it.
If we wish to progress and influence humankind in the right direction, each of us should be modest in the presence of nature, fearless in the face of authority, unwearying in the pursuit of and absolutely free to seek the truth in our own way.
- "Freedom's secret wilt thou know?
- Counsel not with flesh and blood; Loiter not for cloak or food;
- Right thou feelest, rush to do."