Relation of Pathology to Therapeutics

We are not in a position to discuss the relations of this science of Pathology, which treats of the phenomena of the diseased organism, to the science of Therapeutics, which proposes to cure disease….

(1 Read before the Homoeopathic Medica Society of the State of New York, May, 1863.)

THE questions of the Relation of Pathology to Therapeutics is one of exceeding importance, if for no other reason than this: that, by a very large portion of the medical profession, it is commonly held that the whole science of Therapeutics is based, in its general principles and in its special applications, upon the science and the facts of Pathology.

Before beginning the discussion of this subjects, it is necessary to define the terms used in stating the question, as well as certain kindred terms.

The study of the tissues and organs of which the healthy human body is composed constitutes the science of Physiological Anatomy. It may be pursued upon the living or the dead body, provided the death resulted from violence and not from disease.

The tissues and organs of the healthy body are so fashioned as to perform, each, a special work. This act of performing its special work is called the function of an organ. An organ can act only during the life of the individual. Functions, therefore, can be predicated only of living organs. The study of the performance of their special work by the aggregation of organs which make up the body constitutes the science of Physiology.

Physiological Anatomy, then, is the science of the tissues and organs of the healthy body; Physiology is the science of the functions of the healthy, living organism.

When any or all of the tissues or organs of the body have suffered modifications of substance or of structure in consequence of disease, the study of these material changes, which are the results of disease, constitutes the science of Pathological Anatomy. This may be studied upon the living or the dead diseased organism.

When, in consequence of the action of a morbific agent, any or all of the organs of the body perform their special work in an abnormal manner; in other words, when the function of any of the organs of the body is perverted, the study of these changes and perversions of function constitutes the science of Pathology, which, like Physiology, can be studied only in the living organism.

Pathological Anatomy, then, is the science of the morbid tissues and organs of the diseased body. Pathology is the science of the abnormal functions of the diseased living body.

Diseased tissues and organs being modifications of healthy tissues and organs, it is clearly necessary to understand Physiological Anatomy before we can understand Pathological Anatomy. Just as necessary is it, for the same reason, to understand Physiology before we can master Pathology. Indeed the latter might be said to exist only by comparison with the former.

If this be true of the details of these sciences, it is no less true of their essential nature and philosophy. If one would gain correct notion of the subject, scope, limits and relations of the science of Pathology, he must first have a just and exact idea of those of Physiology. To the latter, therefore, I propose to devote a few words.

Dr. Carpenter defines the objects of Physiology to be the study of “the phenomenon which normally present themselves during the existence of living beings”, or, in another place, “the phenomena of health or normal life.”

Its object, then, is not, as it has been sometimes loosely stated, life itself, but the phenomena which depend upon and result from normal life. The science of Physiology brings these phenomena into systematic form, classifies and compares them, analyzes secondary and complex phenomena into their simple elements, and seeks the ultimate phenomenon in which the real elementary manifestations of simple life is made, uncomplicated by secondary or related chemical or mechanical phenomena.

Carroll Dunham
Dr. Carroll Dunham M.D. (1828-1877)
Dr. Dunham graduated from Columbia University with Honours in 1847. In 1850 he received M.D. degree at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York. While in Dublin, he received a dissecting wound that nearly killed him, but with the aid of homoeopathy he cured himself with Lachesis. He visited various homoeopathic hospitals in Europe and then went to Munster where he stayed with Dr. Boenninghausen and studied the methods of that great master. His works include 'Lectures on Materia Medica' and 'Homoeopathy - Science of Therapeutics'.