Professional Ignorance.

Also see: A Defense of Therapeutic Methods.

Therapeutically considered there has never been in the history of the Regular Doctor of the United States such an awakening as there is at the present time.

We have mentioned half a score of times in these pages during the past year that almost the entire profession was coming our way. For so few and inconspicuous a number, as we, to make such a claim, seems the height of egotism, but we are not to blame if the facts bear out the statement. One of the principles of Our Faith is that the study of the clinical action of the single drug is the only true method of drug study. Another is that failure to cure disease is due to lack of knowledge. These statements have been conspicuously displayed on our outside cover page in every issue of this journal. All this shows that we believe that a knowledge of drugs is the most important knowledge of the physician; that we all have too little knowledge and that we all need more of it.

At a meeting not long ago of the Philadelphia branch of the American Pharmaceutical Association, Edward Bok, editor of The Ladies Home Journal, stated that a large number of the eminent physicians prescribed proprietory medicines the formula of which they did not know. This matter was taken up by the profession at large. The statement has produced a great deal of excitement, largely among those who call themselves eminent, well known, or leading physicians.

So much has been published concerning it, that Mr. Bok has prepared a reply which is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, for March 21st. In this reply Mr. Bok makes the statement that in 1905 of five thousand prescriptions examined, he found 41 percent called for remedies of unknown composition. In 1906 the percentage was 47 percent. His figures for 1907 are not yet complete.

He argues that the physician takes human lives into his hands and that it is no part of his profession to put into the bodies of those that trust his personal knowledge, a preparation of which he does not know the ingredients.

I have not place to produce more than a small portion of this most interesting article. He says he has found prescriptions from good physicians calling for thermol, nutritive elixir, Radam's microbe killer, phenol sodique, beefine, bromo-quinin, etc., etc. He says that the people have a right to demand that the physician should know what he is prescribing, and when he prescribes this class of remedies, he does not know what he is prescribing.

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Mr. Bok says the whole matter resolves itself into this, there must come and come soon, a distinct and sweeping reform within the medical profession as to the present unintelligent method of prescribing. That there is prevalent today, among physicians of all ranks, a degeneration in scientific prescribing, a degeneration of the true science of therapeutics, is not a question for argument. It exists, and widely so; it is useless to deny it, it is a waste of time for one class of physicians to accuse another and to absolve themselves.

"I have no fear," he says, "of a successful challenge of my statements. The ground under my feet is too secure. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying firmly and positively, that excepting a very small minority, of consciencious and honorable physicians, the average practitioner of today, has become a dependent on ready made, hand-me-down preparations, which he is prescribing to his patients without an accurate personal knowledge of what he is prescribing." This is a most scathing arraignment. How can any member of the American Medical Association with such a charge over him, look an "irregular" in the face, when the only crime of the irregular is that he studies and knows his remedies.

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"This statement admits of no doubt," he says; "I know it, and I know further that it must stop, or a public awakening is imminent, which will cause an unrest and a distrust on the part of the public, which it will take years to restore, if it ever is restored, and the signs are everywhere on the horizon. That the public awakening is already in a smoldering state, waiting only for the torch that will light it into flame. The increasing readiness of the intelligent public not only to listen to, but to adopt any new pathy or science, in which the element of drugs is omitted, spells not the ignorance or gullibility of the public, as some physicians are ever ready and fond of designating any departure from the established school, but it spells in very plain letters, a growing feeling of unrest, and of distrust of the methods of the average physician.

"The physician of today, by reason of his own acts, by reason of his blind acceptance of commercial statements, rather than his reliance on his own personal knowledge, of the drugs which he is prescribing, is rapidly losing his individuality. The time has come, yea it is imminently at hand, for him to reconstruct his therapeutics, to lift it out of the commercial mire in which he has allowed it to sink."

This is a recognition of this wrong, by a most noted representative of public sentiment. We have never made such scathing charges as these. We have claimed that the physician has no right to be a physician, unless he is thorough in his knowledge of that which he must use to cure disease; that there is too little study of remedies; that the colleges lay too little stress on this study and devote too little time to it; that the student and young graduate goes to the responsibilities of his practice too poorly equipped; that being obliged to have remedies with which to prescribe for his patient, he, like a drowning man clinging to a straw, grasps at every thing offered whether he knows much about it or not.

The time is certainly at hand when there must be a better study of medicines; the time demands it; the intelligence of the people demands it, and the profession must come to it. Will they accept the hard practical thorough work of the irregulars, ready now for their acceptance ? Many are doing this, and all will come to it, we think.

Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.