Possibilities of Uniting the Several Schools of Medicine.


It may be well, before considering the matter of uniting the Schools of Medicine, to form some definite idea of what schools there are to be taken into the account, whether we shall propose to unite them all or to select some and discard others. We have first our own. the Eclectic; then the Old-School, the Homeopathic, and then the Hydropathic, the Electric, the Mesmeric, the "Faith-Cure," Christian Scientist, Movement-Cure; and in this way we may extend the enumeration indefinitely.

The School which we so frequently call Allopathic, is usually styled the Old School, and very properly, as many of its old tenets, teachings and even practices have become obsolete, while others are also falling into "innocuous desuetude." Curiously enough, however, it brings forward as undaunted a front as if it had never changed, never taken a new idea from others, while living by such things. It calls itself "regular,"—its practitioners in the different countries often disagreeing.

The designation Eclectic seems to perplex the lexicon-makers, in regard to how to give it the most wrong definition. Webster defines it as "selecting and combining without unity, principle, or a consistent system;" and utterly disregards the Eclectic method as set forth by the Apostle Paul: "Prove all things and hold fast that which is good,"—the only way really Eclectic. Dunglison's Medical Dictionary is also more or less in the wrong, and apparently on purpose: First, defining the Eclectics as a sect of physicians who preferred to choose from other sects, it names Agathinos of Sparta as its founder, and Archigeês and Aritaos as its greatest ornaments. It omits Galen, who was an Eclectic and a philosopher, who was compelled to leave Rome because the "regular physicians" of the time denounced him for teaching the people, and instigated mobs to do him violence. It, however, concedes that every judicious physician must be an Eclectic, and adds the calumnious assertion that the name is used to designate an exclusive practice. Probably, the compiler thinks that it does not pay to tell the truth and be candid.

Plainly enough any selection of doctrines, methods or remedies must be in accordance with a principle and consistent system or it could not be Eclectic. The Alexandrean physicians, Eristratos and Hêrophilos, discarded blood-letting and depletive treatment generally, employing simpler methods and remedies, and depending largely upon diet, bathing and exercise. Against them were ranged the Empirics, who declared themselves opposed to any theoretic or rational treatment, and to base their methods entirely upon acquired experience. It is easy to discern which of these classes our Eclectics have followed, and which the others. As it was then, so it is now—the Empirics under pretext of superior learning and orthodoxy, persecute the Eclectics. The Ishmaelites, sons of the bond-woman, persecute the children of the free-woman.

Homeopathy comes next. Its motto "Similia similibus curantur," is freely translated by Bishop Newman: "Smile on me, smile on us, and cure your auntie." Yet to be candid, the Homeopathists have served the Healing Art; and their minute doses have often been found most beneficial. Yet it is noticeable that very many of them discard almost entirely the infinitesimal dosing which won them favor, and now use largely the "new remedies" of the Eclectic Practice, while they often out-Herod the Old-School in traducing Eclectics.

The Hydropathist method is by no means to be undervalued, whatever the extravagance of its champions. It has changed much, however. The packs and innumerable applications of cold water of Priessnitz have been succeeded by warm baths, Turkish baths, Russian baths, and innumerable sanitariums in which the application of water is by no means distinctive. Most of the Hydropathists and other Hygienists who study medicine, generally are careful to secure diplomas from the Old School. My cat was once sick and refused the usual catnip remedy for the woes of cathood. Being observed to dip his feet in a basin of water, a larger supply was procured, in which he immersed himself and remained so for about half an hour. He came forth another cat, whole, in his right mind and normally hungry. If that was instinct, then let reason defer to it. At any rate the agency, water, was a perfect cure.

Of the other methods there is but little to say. Most of them are simply auxiliary. Mesmerism is of this character. A physician who "has no magnetism" may get along somehow, but he will often have cause to wonder why others were more quickly successful than he. The Movement-Cure has a limited field, and is admirable in exceptional cases. That is the best that can be said of it. The methods designated Faith-Cure, Metaphysics and Christian Science, I have little to say about.

Electro-Therapeutics deserves favorable notice, at our hands. It is apparently Nature's own remedy, although there are instances in which it is not applicable. If I could have but one method to choose, I would without hesitation say: "Electricity!" It is, however, but one agent among many, and there is no occasion to consign it, like the Homeopathic Materia Medica, to a single school of practice. Our object is to cure the sick; we are not to be so precise about the way except not to employ harmful medication, but to conserve and sustain the vital forces.

The proposition of combining these several methods and the distinctive Schools of Medicine into one fraternity, with a common object, is very attractive. There would be nothing more enjoyable to me than to witness the halt and the lame walking, the blind seeing, the sad dyspeptic returning to a joyous life,—the father restored from the sickbed to his place at the head of the family, and the mother re-called from the summons of death to her seat in the family circle. No crown can compare with this in brilliancy. Can we unite the different schools to such an end? We can—when the prominent aim is not domination and personal aggrandisement, and there are none to stand at the front to say superciliously to others: "Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou!" The lamb may think to lie down with the lion when the lion will not rapaciously seek to pillow the fleecy head inside his greedy maw. We can all walk in peace and unity like one fraternity, when we make it our first care to do our whole duty to God and our fellow-man; when we in response to the appeal from our patients, use the best means at hand for their benefit and restoration. Life is too fleeting to be spent in animosity and controversy about methods. When we seek to act well our part, and refrain from judging one another, we will be certain to be ready to cooperate as one school with one heart and purpose, to battle with disease, arrest the progress of pestilence, and diffuse the blessings of health—wholeness and happiness.

Transactions of the National Eclectic Medical Association, Vol. XVI, 1888-89, edited by Alexander Wilder.