MR. ALFRED SAWDERS, M.H.R., ON DRUGS AND HYDROPATHY.
To thu Editor. Sir.— ln accordance with my promise, I now take up my pen to make a few observations on some circumstances and events connected with the illness and death of the late Mrs. Buchanan. The proceedings of that coroner’s inquest showed such an absurd veneration for the opinion of legally qualified medical practitioners that I cannot hope to gain any attention to what I say in opposition to their practice until I have given your readers a few of the opinions of those who stand, or have stood, highest in the medical profession, as to the use of drugs. I had better begin with the highest authority, Sir Jno. Forbes. He says : ‘■'There is now no proof whatever that any remedy administered by the most experienced physician exercises the slightest influence over disease. In a large proportion of the cases treated by allopathic (drug) physicians, the disease is cured by nature, and not by them. In a lesser, but still not a small proportion, the disease is cured by nature in spite of them—their interference opposing instead of assisting the cure. What, indeed, is the history of medicine, but a history of perpetual changes in the opinions and practice of its professors respecting the very same subjects —changes often extreme and directly opposed to one another ? What differences of opinion—what an array of alleged facts directly at variance with each other—what contradictions—what opposite results of a like experience—what ups and downs—what glorification and degradation of the same remedy—what confidence now, what despair anon in encountering the same disease with the very same weapons —what horror and intolerance at one time of the very opinions and practices which, previously and subsequently, are cherished and admired.” Sir Thomas Watson, Bart., said to be the most eminent drug practitioner of the nineteenth century, has bled, blistered, purged, starved, stuffed, and stimulated for the same disease. He tells us in his “ Practice of Physic ” that he has bled patients for apoplexy to the extent of producing hemeplegia, and that to cure hydrocephalus he bled children three months old freely, blistered them, and dosed with mercurial propartions, jalap, and scammony. But now he says, “To me it has been a life vaguely, how ignorantly, /lioWT*ashly, drugs have been prescribed. We try this, and, not succeeding, we try that, and baffled again we try something else; and it is fortunate if we do no haral in these our tryings. Our profession is continually floating on a sea of doubts about questions of the gravest importance. Of theraputics as a trustworthy science it is certain that we have as yet only the expectation. ” Dr. Fuller says, “At pre&int we are absolutely without data for the administration of medicine ; the profession possesses no authoritative record of a single therapeutic fact.” Dr. Bostock says, “ Every dose of medicine given is a blind experiment on the vitality of the patient.” Dr. Reid says “Less slaughter, I am convinced, has been effected by the sword than by the lancet. More infantile subjects in this metropolis (London) are, perhaps, diurnally destroyed by the mortar and postal than in the ancient Bethlehem fell victims in one day to the Herodian massacre.” Dr. Forth says, “ There is scarcely a more dishonest trade imaginable than medicine in its present state. ” Dr. Prank says, “ Thousands are annually slaughtered in the quiet sick room. ” Dr. Ramage says, “ I fearlessly assert that in most cases the sufferer would be safer without a physician than with one.” Dr. John Johnson says, “ I declare as my conscientious' conviction, founded on long experience and reflection, that if there was not a single physician, surgeon, man-midwife, chemist, apothecary, druggist, or drug on the face of the earth, there would be less sickness and less mortality than now prevail.” Dr. Mason Good says, “ Drugs have destroyed more lives than war, pestilence, and famine combined.” Dr. Bailie exclaimed on his death bed, “ I wish I could be sure that I have not killed more than I have cured. I have no faith in physic. ” How, sir, seeing that such are the opinions of themost able and honest of the “legally qualified medical practitioners” as to their own system of trying to cure disease by the administration of poisons ; and seeing, as I have done, thousands of persons relieved or cured, by what appeared to me simple, natural, and safe processes, and having moreover seen scores of “ legally qualified medical practitioners” come themselves to be cured by “the ignorant peasant Priessnitz” and the “ deluded woolen factor Smedley ” —I do honestly and sincerely believe that I committed no crime against society, and did nothing that should have subjected me or mine to persecution when I acted on my own strong convictions so far as to take my own dying daughter out of the hands that both she and I believed, to be causing her unnecessary suffering, and ensuring her certain and early death. Hor shall T over think it was any crime to have relieved that distressing breath, and opened that closed skin, and put a stop to that destructive straining sickness, even though it was done too late to save her life. But the great “ legally qualified medical practitioners ” of Vienna, when they failed in their attempt to put down Priessnitz by their appeal to the Emperor on the ground that his numerous illegal cures were “ dangerous to religion and the monarchy,” used to get the peasants at Grafenberg to throw a few stones at his patients, —so that I have no right to be surprised that our little affairs in Ashburton should take the same turn. But I have nothing to say against the Ashburton doctors, however much I may condemn and their “ legal ” practice. TwooWltea• I only just know by sight, and one of them I know by experience to be a very px-ompt, skilful, judicious surgeon, and a very noble good hearted n»n. It is nothing new fqiTOie to be threatened with a verdict of manslaughter. My neighbors both here and iiiJSelson can testify that I have taken many Bmgerous cases of fever, diphtheria, and other diseases out of the helpless hands of the legally qualified medical practitioners with the certainty that all their power of revenge would bo brought to bear upon my unfortunate head if they could ever see one of my cases terminate as their own so often do.
It was fourteen years ago last October that I returned to my homo in Nelson, after a few days’ absence, and found my wife in a most dangerous and apparently dying condition. She was burning with fever*, dashing, her arms about with pain, and had had no sleep after her confinement 30 hours ago. She had been attended most of the day by Dr. Oldham, well known to many Ashburton residents, but fortunately he had left to attend an-other-tjatient. As I rolled her up in a wet blankg; the excellent nurse Mrs. J ordan said TJjh, sir, you will be hung ; she cannot livy, and all the doctors will try to hang you.” In half an hour the patient was asleep. Early in the morning the doctor returned. I took care not !o see him, but poor Mis. Jordan explained with fear and trembling the daring deed that had been done, and the sound refreshing sleep that had followed. He was nonplussed and could only say “well it has turned out all right at any rate.” Long before her last illness Mrs. Buchanan had had some experience both with drugs and hydropathy. She took the measles when on a visit to some kind friends in Bath about 12 years ago, who of course sent for a legally-qualified medical practitioner, when she was drugged for the first time in her life, kept ill for several weeks and out of health for several months, and was never so robust and well afterwards as she had been up to that time. She afterwards saw seven of her brothers and sisters go through the measles at home, without any legallyqualified attention or any drugs. She saw them all suffer —nothing compared to what she had done, saw them recover within a week ; and instead of being any the worse for it, were all evidently the better for the wet packs they had worn most of the time. When she came to New Zealand in the Lady Jocelyn she had an opportunity of seeing the effect of drugs on her own andotherchildren. Every one of the infants on board that ship, except hers, died of what was called dysentery. A fond, kind, and in most things a very intelligent mother, who lost tu o infants, told me that she obeyed the doctor to the letter, never brought her darling infants on deck after they were taken ill, never even changed their flannels for fear they should take cold, and waked them up at all hours to give them their medicine regularly. The said medicine seems to have consisted chiefly of opium. My less obedient daughter, who certainly did not wake her babies up at night to dose them, though in obedience to her orthodox husband she placed one of them under the “ legally-qualified” treatment of the ship’s doctor, landed that one in just the last stage of opium poisoning. A few days’ hydropathic treatment and fresh air cured the dysentery, but it took many painful months to recover the child from the opium poisoning. I may here just observe that although every infant on board the Lady Jocelyn, excep* Mrs. Buchanan’s, died on that voyage or immediately after landing, no enquiry was held as to the cause of their death. Why should there be 1 Had they not been duly dosed by a “ legally qualified” young gentleman who had come direct from the great seat of medical knowledge I No meddlesome hydropathist had interfered with his able and orthodox treatment, or dared to suggest that the lungs and skin might be made to relieve the oppressed bowels. No daring heretic of a father had ventured to carry one of the infants out of the salubrious air that is always to be found in a ship’s hold, especially when it is full of infants dying with dysentry. No mother had been so prr-nr-„;,-' <rr-, i" to disobey him by changing a nightdress—and of course clean sheets were never thought of. But above all, no hot baths had made them “ weak,” and no water, ybot or cold, salt or fresh, had touched their tender skins during their illness, whilst they had morphia pills enough to keep them quiet both day and night. That all the infants in a ship should die under such thoroughly orthodox legal treatment, is one of those inscrutable mysteries which no one can fathom and into which it would be presumptuous to enquire either by coroners’ inquest or post mortem examinations. Still, such memories had no doubt something to do with that want of faith in the morphia pills, and unchanged sheets, and unmade bed, and unclogged skin which Dr. Ross complained of in Mrs. Buchanan. When I first saw my daughter in the fever, excited as she was, she wildly grasped my hand and held it as if she expected me to pull her at once out of all her misery. Her first words were “ Oh father, must I be kept constantly sick with trying to take such a lot of milk and beef tea. Dr. Ross says I must take three pints of milk a day, and I can’t do it. This constant sickness will strain me all to pieces, and I can feel that beef tea is poison to me. ” This was said with great difficulty and with most laborious panting. The choked lungs were trying to do duty for themselves and the blocked up skin too, and anyone but a legally qualified allopathic doctor could see that the thing to be done was to reverse that order and make the skin do double duty to relieve the incapable lungs. There were several ways of doing this. Priessnitz would have done it with cold wet sheets. Smedley would have done it with hot soap-suds and water, using mustard to the feet and legs. The first would have been dangerous, as there was not vitality enough left in the patient. The stomach could not prepare the fuel to make heat, and if it could have done so the lungs could not introduce oxygen enough to burn it off or to keep up the insensible fire which sustains the natural heat of a healthy body. Smedley’s strong soap suds might have done it, and done it quickly, but they would have destroyed the oil in the skin, and there was no power left to quickly replace it, as healthy organs would have done ; and the want of it would have caused a sense of chillness which it would have been difficult to meet. For although I had oppressively hot weather and a hi"hly-fevered patient to deal with, I knew that the fever would disappear as soon as Nature’s refrigerator was got to work, and that my ultimate difficulty would be to keep up heat or strength with impaired stomach and impaired lungs. Besides this, there was the difficulty of effectually soapsudding a patient who could only get breath enough to keep alive in one particular position, and the great desirability of resting for a single hour the worn-out skin and muscles that had so long been sustaining the body in its one possible position. a clear case for a hot bath, which would certainly dissolve the peculiar gummy obstruction on the skin which generally appears in fevers, especially where beef tea has been much forced on the patient—would draw many pounds of blood from the gorged lungs, the inflamed stomach and bowels, and relieve the irritated sympathising brain, while it would cool the burning body, and warm the cold lifeless feet. I knew that allopathic, homoeopathic, and many hydropathic doctors agreed that a hot bath was weakening, and that Dr. Ross had held up his hands in horror at the idea, and said that if she was Wdt in a warm bath she might proget out. But I knew from my »wn experience and observation that a hot bath was not weakening, and that when it opened an obstructed skin it was wonderfully strengthening. As Dr. John Armstrong says : “It will bring pounds of HVood to the surface which were suffocating some internal organ ; it will balance the cii’culation sooner than any other means I know. The patient is raised as by the touch of a magic wand from weakness to strength.” And Dr. Carpenter says : “ Perspiration has no weakening effect in itself, except by the diminution of the water in the blood, which may be re-supplied from the
stomach : it may induce very much to invigorate the system. ” I knew that I had to deal with a patient to whom the exertion of getting into or out of bed might prove fatal, but who, nevertheless, had been constantly doing so, and had, moreover, been for days straining with nausea and sickness produced by the most mad attempts to force food on a diseased stomach, in quantities and of a character that she could never have digested in health. These constant spasmodic efforts to vomit were violent enough to burst every one of the weakened blood vessels in her body, and both the patient and her attendents, orthodox as the latter were in their ideas of legally qualified doctors, saw that it was ridiculous for a doctor to continue to order treatment that excited such destructive efforts, and at the same time to tell them that the patient must not be moved even to have her bed made, or for any purpose of cleanliness or comfort. However, she was safely got into and out of the bath, and with all the improvement I expected —the action of the skin restored, the lungs relieved, the feet warmed, the nerves soothed, and a comfortable sleep followed. But the viscid character of the perspiration continued and soon choked the pores again, so that a daily warm bath was for several days necessary to keep her comfortable and the lungs relieved, a large wet body bandage being worn the whole time. After two days of this treatment Dr. Trevor saw her and formed a very favorable opinion of her. Had he seen her on the evening that I first saw her his opinion would probably have been very different. Dr. Ross told him that there had been complication of the right lung, but that he had put that to rights. In telling me of it my daughter said to me “I wonder what they thought had put it to rights. John gave me one pill of his which Dr. Ross said was a great mistake, and he sent another directly after it, like a ferrit after a rat, which was to prevent all the mischief of the first pill, but he never pretended that either of his pills were to do anything for my lungs, which got worse every day, and nothing ever did do them any good until you put my skin to work, which they seem to have no notion of doing.” In four days the fever was quite subdued. Hydropathy, as usual, had done that easily and quickly, to the great relief of the patient, but we now know that there was an injury to the lungs which nothing could cure. Long as this letter already is, I must not conclude without saying something about the inquest. It will, I know, be considered a proof of my naturally heterodox mind if I say anything that may seem to suggest the possibility that even the Resident Magistrate of Ashburton, who acted as coroner on the occasion, could have made any mistakes in his manner of conducting the case. But knowing, as I did, thatif I had kicked my daughter to death with a pair of hob-nailed boots, I should haveheen entitled to some reasonable notice that a charge was to be brought against me, and should have had some voice as to the witnesses to be heard by the jury, some opportunity to question them, and possibly have been allowed to say even a few words in my own defence—l thought it a little strange that, even for the greater crime of relieving her sufferings and prolonging her life, without any legal authority to do so, I should be entirely debarred from all the privileges of an ordinary criminal. I thought it stranger still that I should hear for the first time, not in the coroner’s opening speech, but in his final address, that I stood before the jury as an accused party, against whom it would be their duty to find a verdict of manslaughter if they could possibly suppose from the purely one-sided evidence before them, that anything I had done had shortened my daughter’s life. Every witness that was called was known to be unfavorable to hydropathy, and most of them strongly interested in opposing it; whilst the two nurses who were supposed to believe in my treatment ■were not examined. Nevertheless those hostile witnesses were perhaps better than friendly ones, as they proved, without any equivocation, that my daughter always got better under my treatment, and always got worse under Dr. Ross’. Although some of them swore that the food I had given her was not sufficiently nourishing and stimulating,” they also swore that, at the post mortem examination, they found the body “fairly well nourished ” —a state of things I should never have expected to find after several weeks of typhoid fever. The verdict of the jury was what every one would expect from the evidence before them, and the common practice of juries in similar cases ; but if they could have had competent and impartial witnesses, properly examined and cross examined in their presence, I believe they would have found that death was produced, not by natural, but by unnatural causes—by a most unnatural disregard of the first cause of the disease as well as of the violent distructive efforts that nature was making to defend the weak diseased stomach .and bowels from a load of unnatural rubbish that was being forced upon them. With the rider to the verdict, of course every one must agree. It was a very canny one. It reminds one of the prudent conscientious determination of the old Scotch minister who would not pray “ God defend the Campbells,” but would say “ God defend the right.” The only thing I wonder at is how it was that the coroner, with all his profound veneration for the powers that be, did not manage to get the jury to put legally qualified instead of “ properly qualified.” But perhaps he thought it dangerous to call their attention to the difference, as, if they had once adopted that important distinction, they might have carried the same idea so far as to apply it to other legally constituted authorities, and might have come to the absurd conclusion that even a Resident Magistrate might be legally and yet not properly qualified. Wo shall all heartily agree to “ strongly disapprove of other than properly qualified men undertaking the conduct of serious cases. ” This is just the opinion I acted on, when I asked Dr. Ross to leave the case alone. Of course none but “ properly qualified men ” (or women) should take “ serious cases ” in hand, if such competent persons could only be got. But where do we find them 1 Certainly not in those who come to cases of typhoid fever armed with nothing but morphia, quinine, champagne, and brandy. Not in those who can attend a very serious case of typhoid fever for three weeks, and never even let their noses guide them to the well known and universally admitted cause of typhoid fever ; or take any stops to remove it from their patients nostrils, their patients’ lungs, or their patients’Jdrinking water. Not in those who stand helplessly by and wish the skin would return to a state of health, and reduce the dangerous temperature of their patients’ blood, but either do not know or dare not adopt the simple, straightforward means to make it do so, which have been practised and published with so much benefit to mankind for the last fifty years. Not in those who do not yet know that Dr. Richardson has, by a series of the most able, exhaustive, and impartial experiments, proved the error of his own previous opinion, and that of most of his fraternity, that alcohol was useful as a medicine—that he has shown exactly how the mischevious delusion originated and held its ground so long, and proved to a demonstration that alcohol always lowers and never raises vitality”; that it “ begins by destroying and ends by destruction and that “it is as impotent for good as it is potent for evil.” Not in those who have not yet even learned that food to sustain life, health, and vigor must not only contain
the required nutriment, but must contain it in a form, and with the additions that adapt it to the machine that must assimilate it, and who call the most nourishing food that can be procured for any human being—such as Neave’s food, oatmeal, milk, and beans, “low diet,” and designate brandy, eggs, and beaf tea—a restriction to which would soon starve the strongest man or child in Ashburton to death—“nourishing food.” And certainly not in those who publicly avow that they know nothing of the only discovery that has ever been made in the art of healing disease since the day of Hippocrates, and whose practice seems intended to teach that health can be preserved, and evenrostored, without observing any of the Creator’s laws for health, so long as a certain amount of drugs, well known to be poisons, are swallowed under the direction of a “legally qualified medical practitioner.” I say, sir, that such persons are not competent to guide us to health eitner in “serious” or trivial cases; and as wo have no Pries,",nitz, nor Smedly, or Grinrod, or Johnston, or Barter, or Trail, or Graham here, we had better do the best we can with the assistance of their writings, and the instructions of those who are best acquainted with the principles and details of their wonderfully successful practice. Misfortune may yet compel me to seek the assistance of the Ashburton surgeons, in which capacity I honor them more than most persons do—and I know that, even after this letter, 1 should find at least one of them very skilful, very generous, ,and very forgiving—but I shall never come to them for any of their drugs, however “serious” myillncss maybe; andlhopemy sons will have the courage to let we die illegally and peaceably in a warm bath, or a wet sheet, and leave the doctors to hold as many inquests as they please over me and to cut my body about as they like, to ascertain the cause of my death, which they will probably pronounce to be “ drugophobia. I am, &c,, Alfred Saunders.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 64, 21 February 1880
MR. ALFRED SAWDERS, M.H.R., ON DRUGS AND HYDROPATHY. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 64, 21 February 1880
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