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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 13

The Hygienic Treatment of Disease Versus Drug-Poisoning

The Hygienic Treatment of Disease Versus Drug-Poisoning.

To the Editor of the "Medical Mirror."

"We have seen somewhere a quotation from Van Swieten, in which that philosophic physician expresses the result of his wide-spread review of medical practice in the aphorism, 'All that art can do is to weaken life;' and truly that seems a fair description of the agents which have been handed down to us in the Materia Medica."—Editorial observations in Medical Mirror, January, 1867.

Sir,—As I have ever experienced the most marked courtesy at your hands, for which I cannot sufficiently thank you, I hope that, should any expression likely to give offence inadvertently drop from me in replying to your strictures on my letter in your December number, it may not be attributed to any want of respect to you on my part. At the tenor of your observations I am not the least surprised, as they are just what I should have expected from one who was a firm believer in the drug system, from want of experience to the contrary. But, Sir, permit me to observe, however unpalatable the accusation may be, that both you and other drug practitioners in general are the very men who" have not proved all things, and held fast that which is good."

Your so-called experience is entirely one-sided, consisting in the experience of drugs alone; but you have never brought experience to bear on the other side of the question, by trying the result of discarding their use altogether. Now, claiming as I do to rank in the latter category, I can emphatically declare that so great and beneficial are the results attendant on the latter system, as compared with that of drugging, that they can only be placed, in my mind, as well as in that of all those who have made the experiment, in the relative positions of light and darkness. What, may I ask, has given rise to, and since maintained, the palatial hydropathic establishments at Ben Rhydding, Ilkeley-Wells, Malvern, &c., in England, and the countless ones in Germany, America, and elsewhere, but the disastrous and unsatisfactory results of drug medication

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or poisoning? For I must insist on calling substances by their proper names. Yes, Sir, until some physiologist worthy of the name can prove that alcohol, opium, or strychnine, even in infinitesimal doses, and diluted to any extent that Dr Inman can desire, are food in any sense or form, I must continue to call them what they are, ever have been, and ever will be; viz., poisonous substances, the qualities of which no amount of dilution or trituration can transform. When the substances I have named are proved to be food, there will be no objection to their administration, and there will then be some point in the strictures made by you on my letter, the applicability of which I at present fail to discover. As I have alluded to the one-sided experience of drug practitioners, permit me to quote the following apposite remarks of Dr Carpenter on the subject, a man who cannot be suspected of any hostility towards them. His words are these:—

"The whole medical art is based upon experience, and the value of any remedy can only be fairly tested by the omission of it in some of the cases in which it has been reputed to be most successful. Nothing can be stronger than the reputation which alcoholic stimulants have acquired, as affording efficient aid in the maintenance of the bodily strength under circumstances calculated to exhaust it; and yet the most unimpeachable testimony has shown the fallacy of this opinion, and put universal experience quite in the wrong. So it has sometimes, nay, often, happened that medical men have assured staunch teetotalers that they would die unless they admitted alcohol into their system as a medicine; but the patients, being obstinate, did neither, thus falsifying the prediction in a very unexpected measure, and proving that the experience of doctors is not more infallible than that of the public."

Whether, therefore, recovery under drug treatment takes place in consequence of such treatment, or in spite of it, as stated by the late Sir John Forbes, M.D., can alone be determined by treating similar cases without drugs as well as with them, the former of which courses I accuse drug-physicians of not pursuing, and, consequently, their experience to be imperfect and valueless.

As I cannot suppose that any person can be so prejudiced or infatuated as to think the administration of drugs, on their own account, beneficial, whatever they may think of the necessity of using them, it would only be necessary, in showing the superiority of that system which entirely ignored their use over that which employed them, to prove that diseases recovered equally well under the former as the latter. But what are the facts, vouchsafed and declared by those who have experienced both systems, and held fast to that which was best, let the following testimony declare. And first let me quote the experience of the great Magendie, the celebrated French physician and physiologist. Lecturing his medical class, he says:—

"Let me tell you, gentlemen, what I did when I was head physician at the Hotel Dieu. Some 3000 or 4000 patients passed through my hands every year. I divided the patients into two classes:—With one I followed the dispensary, and gave the usual medicines, without having the least idea why or wherefore. To the others I gave bread-pills and coloured water, without, of course, letting them know anything about it; and occasionally, gentlemen, I would create a third division, to whom I gave nothing whatever. These last would fret a great deal—they would feel that they were neglected—sick people always feel that they are page 29 neglected unless they are well drugged—' Les Imbeciles '—and they would irritate themselves until they got really sick; but Nature invariably came to the rescue, and all the persons in the third class got well. There was but little mortality amongst those who received the bread-pills and coloured water, but the mortality was greatest among those who were carefully drugged according to the dispensary.

This statement will doubtless astound those physicians of one-sided experience, who, having no experience of their opponent's system, yet undertake to ridicule and denounce it; whereas, had they the same experience as those they ridicule, they would probably concur in their opinions.

Allow me now to give you the published experience of Drs Trail and Jackson, of America, and Dr Barter, of St Ann's Hill, Cork, all of them formerly for many years drug-practitioners, but who, having seen the error of their ways, became converted to a better system. Dr Trall says:—

"I was regularly educated in the drug system, and practised it for ten years; since which I have practised ' Water-Cure' for more than fifteen years, in establishments, in private families in city and country, and in correspondence by letter, without giving a particle of medicine in any case whatever. And the sum-total of my experience, since I adopted the better way, may be thus briefly stated:—1. I have not destroyed any lives. 2. I have not seriously damaged any human constitution. 3. I have never failed to cure an acute disease, when I had the case from the start, and no medicine of any kind was given. 4. I have treated hundreds of cases of fevers, including all kinds which prevail in this city and vicinity—bilious, typhus, remittent, intermittent, ' congestive,' pernicious,' ship, scarlet, &c., without losing a case. 5. I have treated a large number of cases of measles, small-pox, and erysipelas, and have not lost a case. 6. I have treated many cases of influenza, and scores of cases of pneumonia, in old and young, strong, and feeble, and have never lost a case. 7. During the last winter, when the deaths in this city of scarlet-fever and pneumonia alone exceeded one hundred per week for months, none of the physicians of our establishment lost a single case, although we treated many. 8. I have never lost a case of diarrhœa, dysentery, nor cholera infantum, although I have treated hundreds. 9. I have treated many cases of convulsions in children without losing a patient. 10. I have treated all forms of gout, every variety of acute, inflammatory, and chronic rheumatism, without failing to cure in every case. 11. I have cured some cases of confirmed consumption. 12. I have cured radically nine-tenths of the cases of dyspepsia, liver complaints, nervous debility, spinal irritation, spermatorrhœa, and similar diseases which have come under my treatment. 13. I have cured every case of uterine ulceration, obstruction, and displacement which I have treated. 14. I have never failed to cure promptly gonorrhœa, syphilis, chancres, gleet, nor any form of venereal disease. 15. All who have consulted me by letter, so far as I know, have been benefited; and the majority for whom I have prescribed, by letter, a plan of self-treatment, have recovered. 16, and lastly. No drug-doctor on earth, no matter of what school, can truthfully make a similar statement in relation to any three of these particulars."—Water-Cure for the Million, p. 70.

Dr Jackson, referring to the hygienic treatment of that most fatal of all fatal diseases under drug treatment—viz., diphtheria, says that out of hundreds of cases treated by him, he never lost a ease, and he had many terrible ones to deal with, which may be judged from the statement that in one case not less than six quarts of muco-purulent matter was expectorated in the course of forty-eight hours, the patient losing in consequence nine pounds in weight, of which case he observes:—

"The man's tissues must have been as foul as corruption itself."

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Dr Barters evidence, * as published in the Cork Constitution of 7th June, 1856, is as follows:—

"That if he had as little success under the water system as he previously had under the drug system, he felt convinced he would have been oftentimes prosecuted for manslaughter."

And he adds—

"I venture to affirm that if I were to descend to use the water-cure as a secret remedy, it is more than probable that I should be followed rather as a God than a man."

And now, finally, permit me to give you my own personal experience on the subject. Having suffered very severely for many months from mercurial rheumatism, following an attack of inflammation of the femoral vein (Phlegmasia dolens), for which I had been well salivated, I was brought almost to death's door by the treatment administered to me by the late eminent Sir Philip Crampton, Bart., and another physician of high repute, who, being still alive, I forbear to name. Having heard of the benefits of hydropathy from some friends, I determined to have recourse to it, dying, as I was, under the poisoning daily administered to me (colchicum being amongst the poisons prescribed). On telling my physicians of my intention, they, as usual, did all they could to dissuade me from it, saying that I had not vigour or reaction enough to bear it,—such want of vigour being principally due, I submit, to their poisonous treatment. To this I replied that I was dying hourly in their hands, that worse I could scarcely be, and go and try hydropathy I would. The result was that at the end of three weeks I had gained twelve pounds in weight, every pain and ache left me, my appetite, before almost entirely gone, had completely returned, and at the end of six weeks I returned home fifteen pounds heavier than when I left, and with such a flush of health and strength as I scarcely ever remember to have felt before, which made my friends pause to recognise me as the wretched ghost they had last beheld me. Such is my simple and unvarnished tale, which, in the interests of truth and humanity, I now record and respectfully ask you to publish. Although I had intended answering other observations of yours, my conscience forbids my pressing further on your space at present, than to mention that since the period above referred to, now ten years ago, an atom of medicine in any shape or form has never passed my lips, nor those of any of my children, nor have I for the last six years ever prescribed—and God forbid that I ever should prescribe—a single atom of it to the many hundreds of patients who have passed through my hands, melancholy instances for the most part of the horrors of drug medication.

I am, Sir, with much respect,

Yours faithfully,

Richard Griffith, jun., Ch. M.

St Ann's Hill, Cork, December, 1867.

P S.—I forgot to add that, true to my principles, I have not, for some page 31 years, wittingly partaken of salt, for the very reason that you mention—viz., its being a poison, and, therefore, unassimilable by the animal system like all other inorganic substances. Not being food, why should any one desirous of perfect health partake of it? Some physiologists ascribe cancer to its use, I suppose from the highly saline nature of the "cancer juices." It is a significant fact that no physician has yet attempted to answer Dr Trail's letter in your August number, which takes the very legs from under the drug system, and the large circulation in England at present of that letter is powerfully opening the eyes of the lay public, coupled with the fact of its not being yet answered. "What can any system offer in support of its truth more than the stern logic of facts, based on true experience, together with its being consonant with reason, science, and common sense, all which conditions I submit the hygienic or hydropathic system has fulfilled, which is far from being the case with the art of drugging?


* Dr Barter was for fifteen years a drug practitioner in large practice, and has been for twenty-six years practising hydropathy.