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HYDROPATHY AND ALLOPATHY., Ashburton Guardian, 4 March 1880
HYDROPATHY AND ALLOPATHY.
To thu Editor. Sir, —I have read with some interest y the articles “Hydropathy” which have appeared in your columns from the pen of Mr. Alfred Saunders. I have looked from day to day for the fulfilment of his promise to show v'tithe material advantages to be gained r M.the practice of hydropathy against tliJse of allopathy. I had better state that T have been, and to a certain extent still am, a student of allopathic medicine. lam not a medical men, because I am not qualified, but still I take some interest in Mr. Saunders’ letters, because I am opposed to hydropathy as a general tiling. Still, lam opentoconviction, and should like to hear a little more from him on this subject. In his last letter he said, “In allopathy or homeopathy we are made to believe that it is indispensable to know exactly the name and nature of the disease in order that the allopathist may administer a poison that produces a disease of tlie opposite character, and the homeopathist a poison that will produce a disease of the snne character as that from which the patient is suffering. It is not necessary now to enquire which of them is right, and it does not require a very powerful intellect to see that they cannot both be right, although both “legally qualified,” but as long as they can make us believe that an accurate knowledge of the exact disease is necessary, and an accurate administration of the exact poison to cure it, they stand a good chance to keep matters in their own hands, as, although they make grievous mistakes in such matters themselves, they never tell tales of each other, and no one else would be listened to. ”
in speaking of hydropathic treatment he say r s, “ There is no room for mystery 7 about such common-sense treatment. There is no need to walk the hospitals to learn it." He makes a very sweeping chargj against medical men generally, when he say's “ they make grievous mistakes ” in their treatment, and from the general tenor of his letters lie seems to cast such slurs and insinuations that I am inclined to think they know nothing, that the .years they 7 have spent in acquiring their knowledge have been worse than wasted, that they 7 have left the “ great seat of medical knowledge” with just as ranch, if not less, knowledge of real practical utility than they had on entering. Hydropathy may he good when in the hands of “legally qualified men.” I don’t use this term in the satirical way in which Mr. Saunders does, but I mean men who have made medicine their study, who have extensive and precise information on all subjects conducive to a knowledge of the human body 7, and who necessarily know the signs and symptoms of disease in every 7 phase and of the virtues of the remedies to he employed.
Mr. caend-.-;- sp- lucre b u■■ *>o='-<l io Walk til 0 bospii id- t.'i loam liy il 1n j >:■ til V . him! that hydropathy i- the <*uly true method of treating disease. I would like to ask him if ho would abolish all medical men,, medical schools, and medicine in toto? and have all the diseases that flesh is heir to attended to by people whose treatment is only book lore, who have no idea of cause and effect, who arc utterly unable, from want of projier education, to distinguish between a sign and a symptom of disease. Suppose a patient complains Of cough, expectoration, dyspmea, hectic fever, night sweats, and emaciation, how are his relatives to tell the name or natm e of the disease. They may know from their-syuvutoms that it is some chest affection, but whether it is consumption or ymppv.ionia or any other disease they will be utterly unable to say. Suppose, in addition to theabovesymptoms, there is cavernous respiration and expectoration of at first a frothy mucus, afterwards of a more viscid and opaque sputum, often mixed with small round particles of tubercular matter, with pus; or with streaks of blood, will the relatives be any the more able to define the disease now than they were before ! I think not. Well, the first are symptoms of consumption and the second are signs of consumption —symptoms because they occur in other chest affections, and signs because they appear only in that disease. E.xpec toration pure and simple is a symptom, but sputa is a sign. Supposing all these signs and symptoms are showing, how is the ignorant (I use this word only in a professional sense) hydropathist to tell the proper treatment to be adopted. Will lie turn to his Smedley, Priessnitz, or Mrs. Nicholls for information, and rigidly follow the law laid down by them on such a case ? Then again in febrile and inflammatory disorders, how are they to distinguish one from the other ? How will they distinguish scarlatina from measles unless the characteristics have been pointed out ? How will they tell the difference between scarlet and typhoid fevers? How will they tell when scarlatina co-exists with typhoid fever, as it sometimes has done ? And how is it possible for ignorant people (I mean professionally) to decide between malignant scarlatina and diphtheria, these having so many resemblances and so few differences that satisfactory evidence of their being distinct diseases is wanting. The chief argument, and a strong one in favor of their being distinct, is that tlie one forms no protection against the other. Then again, there are some cases of scarlatina which soon lapse into profound coma, easily mistaken by ignorant people for narcotic poise n’ng. and how are they to tell that it is net so unless they know the signs of such cases, and how are they to know these signs unless they have “ walked the hospitals,” and seen and studied such cases day by day ?
There is a form of disease which none but medical menare conversant with, or can understand in .any way—latent disease. Its existence is a fact most important in its bearing, both on our treatment of disease and the expectations we form of its success. Fur instance, the lungs, heart, liver, or kidneys, which have seemed to perform hieir ‘ fqiiciioiis well so long qsthey ji-'eyc pot exposed"' to' any unusud} §tyaiii', piay prove quite ipicqual tq the straijge >vopk imposed upon them by the conges, tion which attends the cold stage of febrile and inflammatory disorders, by the quickened circulation of the hot stage, or by the quick development of poisonous matters in such diseases as typhus, typhoid fevers, scarlatina and cholera. Let the functions of tho lungs be greatly hindered or those of the kidneys wholly suspended, and the blood will become charged with a poison which the frame already diseased s powerless to eliminate. How, will the hydropathic hook lore explain this ? I trow not. They may get a smattering of knowledge, but a little fi dangerous flijqg, ppd ofttimes leads to disastrous results.
Mr. Saunders, from liis stand point, condemns in a wholesale manner all drugs as “ poison,” and would have us believe that all the deaths certified to by “legally qualified medical men ” were due to the wholesale administration of drugs, in other words —poisoned. This terrible charge he would lcad,us to believe in by the extracts he makes the works of several medical men eminent in their day, but nowjiiQst of-them efl'ete. He does not give us the opinions *of the eminent a' of this 'Ay; own day, such as Tapper, er/HaSffH, Scott, Al|ison,''Beal', and a4iost of' other men liighet' tliap Sir tjohn Forbes, whom I deny being the highest authority. Mr. Saunders insinuates that if all the patients above referred to had been treated hydropathically they would not have died ! They would then, I suppose, be still living—a truly grand p ( !d
army of martyrs to circumstances. To ignorant people the quotations made must be terrible proof of the charge made by Mr. Saunders, but it must be remembered that the works he quoted from were intended only for medical students, and not a 1 captaudum vulgus. They are mostly lectures delivered by Professors to their students, and the remarks quoted by Mr. 8. wore intended by the lecturer, to show the imperfections of medicine at that time as a science, and its difficulty as an art, and to stimulate the students to an increased study and energy to remove its imperfections, and to redeem the mistakes made in past years. Rome was not built in a day, neither was medicine, nor can it attain without careful observation and study that perfection which Mr. Saunders attributes falsely to hydropathy. Disease was sent by the Almighty as a part of the curse for “ man’s first disobedience;” and however perfect medicine as a science may be, our efforts can only be palliative, and no min lias any right to arrogate to bis paiticular system, pet scheme, or bobby the virtue of perfection, considering that it is only subservient to the will of God. Sight scams to have been lost by Mr. S. of the great differences existing between one individual and another, and that there are many original and many' acquired differences between man and man. The llrst are those convey r cd by the terms temperament, diathesis, hereditary disposition, and idiosyncracy'; to these can be added those dependant on sex and age. The acquired differences are due to air and climate, place of above, supplies of food and water, habits, occupation and mode of life, and in some instances to diseases previously undergone, and latent maladies unconsciously existing. When, therefore, the original differences bet ween man and man, and the various and complicating influences to which the body is exposed in all states of society, but especially in highly civilised communities, are taken into consideration, no very great additional argument will be needed to establish the first great principle on which the practice of medicine hinges—that in health and (by natural inference) in disease, every function of the body varies indifferent persons within wide limits of intensity. This fact is the key' to the imperfection of Medicine as a (science, and its difficulty as an Art. To define disease we must first have defined health, for the one is but the negation of the other, and in like manner the description and right understanding of disease depend upon the description and right understanding of health. Wc say 7 disease is present when any structure of the body is changed, of course provided that change is not the direct and immediate effect of external injury ; or when any function is cither unnaturally torpid, active, or altered in character. Diseases, of course, vary 7 much in their nature, in their form or type, in their duration and course, in their terminations, and in their occurrence. Most diseases terminate in complete recovery 7 , a considerable number in partial or incomplete recovery 7. Some di«'?a.”‘’s tyrtnirah' in mot;*stasis, or Iran'
b”'cure lii'iu rite parr. fir.-i aMm !,i ,1 i., s .me .itvlii-r—ii "in tin' Joint.-- io i n' st. .iuao.li. be:<rt, or brain, in gout ; ..r b; extension to a texture similar to the one originally attacked, as when acute rheumatism, having commenced in the fibrous textures surrounding the large joints, seizes upon those in and about the heart. Some dieases terminate suddenly by discharges, eruptions, or external inflammations, and the conduct of these cases, and in fact of disease general!)', requires treatment at the hands of—not ignorant empirics, men whose practice is but the result of mere experience, whoso knowledge is limited to cases whose characteristics and idiosyncracies warranted certain treatment which, if employed in other cases of the same disease, might have proved fatal, and in consequence think that form of treatment suitable in eveiy case—but skilful men, men who have made the consideration of diseases in every phase, their nature and effects, the study of their lives, whose practice combines the result of not only mere experience hut deep and careful study of the structural form of the human body, who are able to form a correct diagnosis, who have a knowledge of the nature of the disease itself, of the constitution of the sufferer, and of the virtues of the remedies to be employed—■ essential preliminaries to judicious treatment. The object to be aimed at by the medical man will of course vary with each case; in one it will be sufficient if the ascertained cause bo removed; in another it may be necessary to restore the healthy function or repair the diseased structure; in a third, all that we may bo able to do will be to palliate the suffering the disease occasions. It must be borne in mind there are many difficulties besetting the path of medicine, both as a subject of scientific enquiry and of practical application—difficulties which may never bo thought of by an ignorant public, such as the variable severity of diseases bearing the same name, the changes that occur in the progress both of acute and chronic cases, and the unequal strength of our remedies, and when we reflect that, prior to the setting in of any given disease, the constitution of the patient originally marked by peculiarities traceable to hereditary predisposition, has been subsequently modified ; that the disease itself may vary within wide limits of intensity ; that it passes naturally through many different phases ; that it may fall under our observation and treatment at any part of its course ; that the remedies prescribed, being of variable strength, may be administered with more or loss care and regularity, and the patient be tended with greater or less watchfulness and skill. When we takc’all these circumstances into consideration, we cannot be surprised that medicine should be the most imperfect and uncertain of sciences, a conjectural and most difficult art. It will, I think, be well to speak of that vis medicatrix natui’ic —that power inherent in the human frame to right itself when suffering from severe disorders. And it would be unwise and unjust on our part to withhold from nature what is her due, for whatever we might like to do, we can only at best assist her, and it is to the interest of the iqedical attendant to extol the, powers of nature, am| qttv.jbvjte jin'them vnqch of the gjnccegji usually'ascribed to bis treatment. It is only by this acknowledgment that the public can bo rescued from quackery. Tho homoeopathist, or as some one says, “ the slave of au hypo Miosis invented by a heated enthusiast, and mainly suported by imaginary sensations developed by experiments cm Ids own pei'son —attributes to infinitesimal doses virtues simply ridiculous, and results simply impossible ;” but the regular practitioner can explain the ures alleged to have been thus effected by that very vis medicatrix which so constantly assists him in his own treatment, and to which lie so rightly attributes much of his own success ; and it is often a task of extreme difficulty to determine whothey, a patiqnMs recovery' has happened through the treatment adopted, or independent of it, or in spite of it. Tho best physician may often decide wrongly ; the ignorant quack and equally ignorant public arc utterly unable to form an opinion. As one medical man says : “after all that can be done in its study, the science of medicine must remain extremely imperfect, and the art of healing very difficult. Its general jirinciples, derived originally from parti culars made up of many variable elements, must be re-applied in practice to iudiyb dual instances as cqm.plicatqd as tipse pyt of yyhjch |hey iyere Vnlginally 'formed, sb jikat' precision is, in the nature of things,’ impossible', find' certainly of very Tare attainment'.” —I am, Ac. Eve’s Grandson.
HYDROPATHY AND ALLOPATHY., Ashburton Guardian, 4 March 1880
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