Selected writings of John M. Scudder:
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"Wherefore, laying aside every weight, and the sins which doth so easily beset us, let us run with patience the race set before us."
I am an admirer of Paul: setting aside the religious character of his teachings, the wonderful insight which he had into the motives of men make them valuable in every pursuit of life. I use his language with all due reverence, and I use it because it so well expresses a truth that we would do well to consider.
A moment's thought will show that the field for sermonizing is very extensive. There is no pursuit in life in which it does not point the way to success. To the young man commencing the practice of medicine it is peculiarly applicable. We all carry weights, in the form of prejudices, ignorance, passions uncontrolled, etc., that prevent the attainment of that success which we may anticipate. If we can lay aside these weights and the sins which so easily beset us, we will find our progress in life more rapid and our lot in life much pleasanter.
But we desire to apply Paul's teaching to Eclecticism as a school of medicine. Though we have made rapid progress in numbers and influence, and are stronger to-day than we have been before, we have not accomplished as much as we ought, and there have been times when the movement has retrograded. Why? We have carried dead weights, and we have had certain besetting sins which were unpleasant. Let us examine some of them:
Thomsonianism, or the idea that a doctor could be grown from a $25 patented book and a few herbs, without education, has been a persistent incubus. There is no use for medical colleges, or an extended curriculum of study;—read our books, we tell it so plainly that the wayfaring man can understand—put it in practice, with much cursing of the Old-School, and success is yours.
"Give a dog a bad name," etc., is an old saw that has a great deal of meaning. Steam doctor ! Botanic ! Root and herb doctor ! etc., etc., have been dead weights that we were obliged to carry,— in part because we affiliated with Botanics, but principally from their continued application to us by our competitors.
Success brought its usual crowd of parasites. As Eclecticism became popular, Jones, Brown, and Simpkins, who had gathered all they knew of medicine from Thomson's book or Beach's Family Practice, became Eclectics; and we had to stand godfather to their ignorance and malpractice. The thought of some of these deadweights and their miserable and ridiculous errors is enough to make one sick of his profession.
The demand for Eclectic physicians outrunning its supply brought, as we might expect, considerable imperfect material, but we could congratulate ourselves that our condition was not worse than that of our regular opponents. But the whims or private interests of those conducting our medical colleges put down the fees and opened the doors to promiscuous graduation. Honorary degrees were issued to those who couldn't come; they were called honorary, but with a few exceptions they were dishonorable to all parties concerned.
Medical colleges sprang up in the larger cities, which was well enough; but of the Faculties, the less said, the better. They taught crudely; and their students failed in that primary training so essential to true success. But in one thing they did not fail,—to give the pupil an exaggerated idea of the resources of Eclecticism— and its adaptation to the treatment of chronic disease. Such colleges, such professors, such teachings have been constant deadweights, and if it had not been for the miserable practice of our opponents and a few good men that furnished our text-books, it would have wrecked us long since.
The treatment of chronic disease has been one of our besetting sins. The first card the beginner would issue would have on it, "Special attention given to the treatment of chronic disease, and the diseases of women." The business of the young man is to establish a creditable reputation as a general practitioner, in which by study and experience he may fit himself for the treatment of these affections after some years' service. Not that the young physician may not treat chronic disease from the first, but it must not be the first object.
Curing cancer has been one of our besetting sins, and cancer doctor one of the dead-weights we have had to carry. Now, Eclectics, as a rule, make no profession of curing cancer,—they treat it as they treat other diseases, and in some of its forms, with success; but they are ready to acknowledge that, in the main, the treatment thus far is not a success.
Cursing the Old-School, heaping maledictions on bleeding, mercury, antimony, arsenic, etc., is another dead-weight peculiarly Eclectic; so much so, indeed, that some of our physicians, and even some professors, have deemed it the very essence of Eclecticism, and claim that so soon as one quits "cussing" in this way he should no longer be recognized.
Now, "cussing," to be followed as a business, needs to be profitable; if it does not advance your interests, "cuss not at all." Let Flagstaff speak for us: "Well, 't is no matter; cursing pricks me on." "Yea, but how if cursing pricks me off when I come on? how then? Can cursing set a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Cursing has no skill in surgery then? No." And though we have parodied Shakespeare, yet we find, in fact, that this kind of cursing is not usually associated with skill, in medicine or surgery.
We might enumerate other weights and sins that we carry along with us, and which obstruct our progress, but we have said enough to call attention to some salient points, and the reader may make the application further.
But one asks, had these things not better be covered up? Are you not giving our Old-School friends, a whip to scourge us? My dear sir, our Old-School neighbors have enough to do to take care of their own household, as have our Homeopathic friends, and if we wait until they have purged themselves, we need fear no annoyance for years to come.
But it is best for us to slough off these dead-weights and the sins which so easily beset us, and with patience run the race set before us—the attainment of a rational practice of medicine.— SCUDDER, Editorial, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1871.
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FOOD AND SPECIFIC MEDICATION.— "Looking farther [than medicines] we will see the necessity, in one case of histogenetic food, in another of calorifacient, in one of iron, in another of phosphorus, etc. It is just as much specific medication to be able to select the proper food for the sick as it is the proper medicine." —DR. JOHN M. SCUDDER, Specific Medication, p. 19.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.