Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Brief Expositions of Rational Medicine

Brief Expositions of Rational Medicine
(Homeopathy and more)

Here are some interesting excerpts from a little (75 page), hardback, gem of a book I bought at a yard sale in Angwin, northern California, back in 1975. The author was amazingly level-headed, and ahead of his time, considering some of the medical practices that were still common at the time. We also have here the solution to the mystery of who coined the expression, "self-limiting diseases". His observations are still good common sense today.


"Brief Expositions of Rational Medicine": To Which Is Prefixed "The Paradise of Doctors, A Fable"

by Jacob Bigelow, M.D.,

Late President of the Massachusetts Medical Society,
Physician of the Massachusetts General Hospital, etc.,

Publisher: Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Company, 13 Winter Street.


"An old lady, whose shrill voice drew immediate attention, protested against violent measures of all kinds, and moved, as a middle course, that resort should be had to homeopathy. It never did any harm, and was very comforting, especially when well recommended by the physician. It cured her child of the measles in six weeks, and her-self of a broken leg in six months, during which time she had two hundred and ninety-five visits, and took more than fifteen hundred globules. She had walked to the meeting on her crutches to exhibit to the assembly the astonishing powers of the Hahnemannic system.

Here she was rudely interrupted by a bluff marketer, who somewhat rudely pronounced homeopathy to be a great humbug, since, but a short time before, his child had eaten part of a raw pumpkin, and was seized with convulsions; and the physician who was sent for, instead of taking measures to dislodge the offending cause, took out a little book, and remarking to the by-standers that "like cures like," proceeded to prescribe the hundred millionth part of another pumpkin.

The next person who rose was a manufacturer, who had calculated that the homeo-pathic profit on the cost of the raw material was altogether unreasonable. He had him-self expended seventy-five dollars in a quarter of a grain of belladonna, so divided as to keep off scarlet fever; but found, after all, that he had not bought enough, for his child-ren had the disease a little worse than any of their neighbors." - p. 15.


"The methods which, at the present day, are most prevalent in civilized countries, in the treatment of disease, may be denominated the following:

1. The ARTIFICIAL method, which, when carried to excess, is commonly termed heroic, and which consists in reliance on artificial remedies, usually of an active char-acter, in the expectation that they will of themselves remove diseases.

2. The EXPECTANT method. This consists simply in non-interference, leaving the chance of recovery to the powers of nature, uninfluenced by interpositions of art.

3. The HOMEOPATHIC method. This is a counterfeit of the last, and consists in leaving the case to nature, while the patient is amused with nominal and nugatory re-medies.

4. The EXCLUSIVE method, which applies one remedy to all diseases, or to a maj-ority of diseases. This head includes hydropathy, also the use of various mineral waters, electrical establishments, etc. Drugs newly introduced, and especially secret medicines, frequently boast this universality of application.

5. The RATIONAL method. This recognizes nature as the great agent in the cure of diseases, and employs art as an auxiliary, to be resorted to when useful or necessary, and avoided when prejudicial." - pp. 26-27.


"The public, however, expect something more of physicians than the power of distin-guishing diseases, and of predicting their issue. They look to them for the relief of their sufferings, and the cure or removal of their complaints. And the vulgar estimate of the powers of medicine is founded on the common acceptation of the name, that medicine is the art of curing diseases. That this is a false definition, is evident from the fact that many diseases are incurable, and that one such disease must at last happen to every liv-ing man. A far more just definition would be, that medicine is the art of understanding diseases, and of curing or relieving them when possible. If this definition were accepted, and its truth generally understood by the profession and the public, a weight of super-fluous responsibility on one side, and of dissatisfaction on the other, would be lifted from the shoulders of both. It is because physicians allow themselves to profess and vaunt more power over disease than belongs to them, that their occasional shortcomings are made a ground of reproach with the community, and of contention among them-selves. . .

". . . certain diseases are 'self-limited' (This term was first introduced by the writer in a discourse in 1835, . . )" - pp. 20-30.
[Here the writer refers to himself in the third person. - PL]


"The great objects which medical practice professes to effect, and which there can be no doubt that it frequently does effect, are the following:

1. The cure of certain diseases.

2. The relief or palliation of all diseases.

3. The safe conduct of the sick.

"In all these objects it sometimes fails; yet, instances of its success are sufficiently nu-merous to establish the necessity of the existence of medicine as a profession." - p. 31.


"3. "THE HOMEOPATHIC METHOD. -- Homeopathy may be defined as a specious mode of doing nothing. While it waits on the natural progress of disease and the restor-ative tendence of nature on the one hand, or the injurious advance of disease on the other, it supplies the craving for activity, on the part of the patient and his friends, by the formal and regular administration of nominal medicine. Although homeopathy will, at some future time, be classed with historical delusions, . . ." - pp. 41-42.


If you're lucky, you may be able to find this book in a used book store.

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