SURGERY should be the handmaiden of Medicine. In the olden days right up to the eighties the physician was more highly respected than his brother the surgeon; indeed, the pompous physician complete with snuffbox, which he used to keep off bad humours and fevers wig and golden-headed cane, looked down on the barber surgeon whom he only employed in a menial position, i.e. in the frequent blood-lettings fashionable at that time and perhaps for the crushing operations for stone in the bladder.
Otherwise surgery was very little known except for amputations for gunshot wounds and fractures on the battlefields. Most of these operations were unsuccessful, as the patients succumbed in large numbers to wound fevers due, as we know now, to sepsis.
No wonder that a surgeon was only called in as a very last resort. All this changed completely after the discoveries of such brilliant men as Semmelweiss of Vienna who found the cause of the fatal puerperal fevers which ravaged the maternity hospitals in those days of Pasteur who first discovered bacteria of Lister who made surgical operations no longer playthings of chance by using antiseptics to kill the fatal bacteria of Simpson who first used anaesthetics and thus took away the ghastly horror of the consciousness of pain.
The combined effects of these discoveries helped surgery on enormously. The surgeon became bolder as patients survived their manipulations, and more and more brilliant operations were invented as the technique improved; and nowadays surgery has reached its zenith.
Operations on the heart, the lungs, the spleen and the brain are daily performed successfully as far as the surgeon is concerned. It has become a mechanical job, a well-paying job; the patient is often a minor consideration, his pains, his disabilities are as great if not worse after the operation than they were previously. Certain indefinite symptoms are present in a patient; he has caught a germ, it is said; his appendix, he is told, must be removed. It is done; months go by; still the same unpleasant symptoms recur; now the blame is put on the gall-bladder or it may be vice versa and is brilliantly dealt with.
Still the patient feels ill or is never well; some other part of his anatomy is investigated and fixed upon as being useless, may indeed be fatal to him if left; it might be his tonsils or his frontal sinus or even a large part of his bowels may have to be sacrificed at the altar of the great god Moloch, the blood thirsty surgeon. So the merry race goes on. We are at the mercy of the surgeon who waxes fat with the fees that are paid him. The servant is worthy of his hire. But he is no longer a servant, he is our master and we have to dance to his calling.
It is he now who looks down on his humble brother, the once mighty physician, who is in the position of the poor Lazarns, begging for the crumbs that fall from the table of the rich man. No wonder most young medical men go in for surgery: the kudos is so much greater; and yet it should not be so. A well-known brilliant surgeon in Dublin who excelled in the most out-of-the-way, venturesome operations, spoke very slightingly to me years ago of the uselessness of medicines. “They are all junk and should be thrown overboard, with the exception of perhaps one or two painkilling drugs.
You dont believe in medicines, do you,” he turned to me, the young tyro just fresh from the schools, then. I suppose he saw the faintly doubting expression in my face. “Oh, no,” I quickly replied, with a proviso in my mind it would not do to offend the great man. Certainly I did not believe in the efficacy of the medicines as I had seen them applied in the wards of the famous hospital where I was trained. They might just as well not have been given. The expectant treatment, the do nothing and leave it to nature method, did just as well and very often better than drastic overdosing.
Surgery is glamorous, but medicine is more wonderful still if your know how to prevent illnesses, and how to prevent operations.
Many operations are unnecessary, and even such things as new growths and tumours can be removed without the aid of the knife. This is not an exaggeration or an idle statement.
Tumours have been cured in the past, our homoeopathic literature is full of examples, and they are daily being cured now, and more would be cured if Homoeopathy were given a chance. But the surgical technique has developed to such a fine art that only surgery is considered for any case of growth or tumour.