TWO years ago the great surgeon, August Bier, wrote significantly in the Munch. Med. Woch: “I am a practicing physician and a professor of surgery,” in justification of the fact that he had occupied himself with homoeopathy and the medicinal treatment of disease, for which he had been blamed. This statement of Biers is of great importance for the future of medicine and should guide us medical men.
Everyone is aware that the tendency towards specialization, which has divided the healing art into countless departments, has produced much progress in the specialities cultivated. However, this tendency has very serious drawbacks, for it has produced the mechanization of the art of healing, and it has led to the introduction of many methods of treatment, which are superfluous and which are risky to the patient.
The horizon of specialists is apt to get narrowed. I have pleaded years ago that the art of healing should be placed once more on a broad basis, that general practitioners should once more guide the work of specialists.
Thirty years ago I was an enthusiastic student of surgery, but, although I was assistant to eminent surgeons, I looked upon many of their operations with grave misgivings. I was unable to adopt a purely mechanical view of the human body, and I believed that many of the operations performed were superfluous and could be replaced by simple, non-surgical treatment. My conscience oppressed me, but I did not find understanding for my views among the surgeons.
Twenty-five years ago I established myself and I acquired rapidly a very large surgical practice. However, my doubts remained. Wishing to clarify my views, I visited the greatest surgeons at every opportunity and did much reading. During the twenty-five years of my surgical activity. I have never operated if the indications for an operation were uncertain or were absent. When visiting other surgeons I saw the many operations, most brilliantly done from the technical point of view.
However, I noticed that out of ten large operations on the abdomen, often only one was really necessity. Besides, I found that there were surgeons who had written bulky and excellent volumes on the practice of surgery who failed utterly if they tried to operate themselves. When I attended medical congresses, I was surprised to find that few of the speakers used plain, intelligible language. I sat among the audience bewildered and dazed by a torrent of Latin and Greek verbiage.
I thought that possibly I lacked understanding of the healing art and attended the consulting rooms of the most successful medical practitioners, orthodox and unorthodox, professional and lay, and I was impressed by the multiplicity of methods whereby the sick can be made well. In the consulting room of one doctor I found a vast collection of apparatus, a veritable mechanical museum, with machines of which I had never heard the name. At another doctors I noticed that the consulting room contained no tools whatever, except a stethoscope.
The toolless doctor treated his patients with diet and with air and sun baths. He was a strict vegetarian, he had five magnificent children, and all five had among them not a single decayed tooth. I was impressed by the fact that his views were at least valuable for his children. After all, our patients ought to be our children. The third doctor whom I visited was a high authority on chemistry and pharmaceutics.
During a single day, while I watched him at work, I was made acquainted with numerous drugs and combinations, of which I had never heard. The man was an artist and he favoured powerfully acting remedies in large doses.
The fourth doctor was a homoeopath. I was permitted to be with him during his consulting hours and to accompany him on his visits to his patients. Hitherto I had had no belief in the infinitely small doses favoured by homoeopaths. I learned some thing new, and I saw methods from which every doctor can profit. I noticed that the homoeopath studied most carefully the whole of the constitution and the medical history of the patient and of his family, and that he took note of the most insignificant symptoms.
His object was not to treat “a textbook disease,”a mere abstraction, but a human individual with very individual complaints. When I saw him at his work, I could not help remembering the teachings of Hippocrates. The fifth doctor was a man of an unusual type. He was very intelligent, very experienced, and he studied the souls of his patients and tried to influence them. I was with him during his consulting hours. He wrote hardly any prescriptions. His principal means of action were the psychical persuasion of the patient, hypnotism and massage.