HOMOEOPATHY AND MEDICINE


In order to reach a just estimate of Hahnemann and his work and influence, the author briefly reviews the period of his activity and the scientific and pseudo- scientific theories then in vogue. He pays a generous tribute to the profound erudition, intellect and imagination possessed by Hahnemann, and to his conspicuous contributions to Medicine and Biology.


The author has been stimulated, as the result of the famous Bier article to review the historical and present position of homoeopathy, the motives of its fonder, and the attitude of the world in general toward this branch of medicine. He is impressed by the fact that “for the first time we see a university professor, research worker and physician of unquestioned eminence take so decided a stand in favor of the despised homoeopathy, that the matter cannot be ignored. Bier does not hesitate to acknowledge that, unknown to himself, a large number of the remedies which he has long been using and recommending, he now finds to be based on homoeopathic principles, and he states that he was guided to homoeopathy as a result of the theoretical and practical development of the irritant-therapy therein involved.

Finally, he reports upon three distinct series of observations in which homoeopathic methods of cure employed by himself, were crowned with unquestioned success.” In the face of these startling findings, the author insists that the non-homoeopathic world at large is under the moral obligation of subjecting its ideas on the question of searching revision, and as his personal contribution, he proposes to assemble the various material which has hitherto prevented the establishment of any degree of understanding between Official Medicine and homoeopathy.

The writer questions what are the fundamental grounds of difference existing between these twin branches of medicine. “What, he asks, “is the reason for the continued prescription of Hahnemanns teachings at the hands of Official Medicine, despite the fact that its adherents have for a number of decades recognized many of the scientific truths underlying the teachings of the latter; that they have accepted the findings of pathological and diagnostic investigation and have preserved but a very limited number of their palladia ? Why, in spite of these facts, does the verdict still apply that, so long as homoeopathy insists upon the principle of similars and its own form of dosage, its scientific claims cannot be seriously considered?”.

In order to reach a just estimate of Hahnemann and his work and influence, the author briefly reviews the period of his activity and the scientific and pseudo- scientific theories then in vogue. He pays a generous tribute to the profound erudition, intellect and imagination possessed by Hahnemann, and to his conspicuous contributions to Medicine and Biology. When, in 1796, at the age of forty, he published his “Research into a new principle for detecting the therapeutic powers of medicinal substances,” following upon various publications in the domain of chemistry and pharmacy, “Hahnemann was already generally known and respected as a physician.

He was the first person in Germany to fight for the abolition of force in the treatment of the insane; he had indicated the necessity of applying dietetic, hygienic and psychic treatment for chronic invalids, and in the domain of surgery he had suggested methods of treating ulcers, bone caries and wounds in general, which suggest aseptic procedure. Thus, when he first presented his reformatory ideas in a definite form he had, in the words of one of his critics, been known for twenty years as a thoughtful and careful observer, as well as a skillful and successful practitioner.

The author states that Hahnemanns revolutionary theories were at first limited to questions of therapy, for which he finds ample justification in its lamentable condition at that time. “Nowhere was there any evidence of rationality, and where this appeared to exist it in reality represented the worst forms of speculative rationalism, as in the doctrine of Brown. Apart from this, the general principles accepted were the humoral- pathological theories of ancient Galenism, associated with a poly-pragmatism which in the preparation of prescriptions indiscriminately combined the most varied substances, exercising particular lack of discretion in the matter of emetics, cathartics and the never-failing blood-letting. These dubious curative methods were the first to receive Hahnemanns attacks”.

His attention became directed to the law of similars as a result of his work of translating Cullens Materia Medica. Not satisfied with that authors explanations relative to cinchona bark, he instituted investigations on his own person, in order to test its effect. He noted that he repeatedly presented pathologic conditions resembling those of intermittent fever, and continuing his experimentation, “he found the rule to apply that certain drugs, when applied to healthy subjects, produced pathologic phenomena resembling those noted in certain diseases. When used in the latter, moreover, those drugs proved effective which, if given to healthy persons, produced similar symptoms.

This phenomenon he formulated under the name of the Law of Similars, for although a sworn enemy of all grey theory. Hahnemann felt compelled to base the general applicability of his law on a theoretic foundation.” In resorting to the then prevalent theory of vitalism, he was but following the current dynamic and mechanistic theories of his time, for it should be borne in mind that at period dynamistic-mechanistic conceptions under various forms represented the prevailing trends of biological theorization, which a later more enlightened age has rejected in favor of a more fundamentally scientific viewpoint. “He claimed that the original cause of a disease was immaterial, that it represented a discord, a reduction of vital force, associated of course with certain organs.

The effects of the disturbance there manifested, were expressed as the symptoms which, in his opinion, constituted the only means of determining the disease. In the same way that they represent the reflex of the disease, the phenomena produced as a result of taking certain drugs are characterized by similar symptoms. Then the drugs produce the more acute disease. which vanquishes and neutralizes the primary one. What remains of the former can then easily be neutralized by the vital force. According to this theory, there exist original relations between the drugs and those organs which serve as points of attack. The attention of the physician is directed to them by the drug symptoms which he must learn to recognize and to differentiate by indefatigable testing”.

The author points out that the law of similars goes back to the time of Hippocrates, and that von Haller was the first to suggest that drugs be proved on healthy individuals. But the careful and rationally developed methods, as well as his understanding of the patients individuality are the special merit of Hahnemann. The graduated dosages, leading finally to the great “potencies,” were only arrive at after long study and experimentation.

The fact that, in spite of possessing a reputation for benevolence and humanity, Hahnemann vented himself in acrimonious attacks against the allopaths and their “erroneous theory” is excused by the writer on the ground that all reformers are compelled to express themselves in passionate language. “They must destroy in order to upbuild, and their only weapon herefore is the word”.

From the very outset there prevailed fundamental differences within the ranks of the followers of Hahnemann, more especially with respect to the theory of dosage. Hahnemanns law of potencies was recognized by some and rejected by others. The points that remained unquestioned were the law of similars, the demand for systematic drug proving on healthy subjects, and the principle that the selection of drugs should be based on their symptomatic mode of operation.

The author states emphatically that “the method suggested during the last quarter of the nineteenth century by leading homoeopaths to solve the whole question of drug proving and dosage was and is by no means unscientific. In 1879, at a General Meeting of the Central Society, the Hungarian homoeopath, Prof. von Bakody, submitted the request that in healthy humans and animals the individual drugs be proved in doses of progressive size, in consideration of all functional changes of a pathologico- histological, chemical and toxic nature, and that these changes be strictly compared with other phenomena resembling them, produced by a hypothetical pathologic cause in natural diseases.

On the basis of this law of similarity obtained from the healthy organism, in the sense of a causal specific (we should say organospecific) effect on the tissue, remedies corresponding to the various phases of the disease were to be applied, in such form and quantity as to preclude the operation on the organism of any pathologic secondary effects”.

He emphasizes the disadvantages to which homoeopathic physicians are exposed by being practically leaderless. “Homoeopathy,” he says, “exists outside of the Faculties, and only in Hungary and North America does if possess institutes of learning”.

Turning to the attitude toward homoeopathy assumed by the official medical world at different periods, the writer is urged to state that it has been met not exclusively by hostility, but also by a great deal of fair-minded and objective criticism. Nevertheless, “at the outset, it was not the law of similars, but the rejection of the theory of derivative therapy and of small doses which constituted the chief points of attack and gradually became more acute. As an instance of this mutual hostility of the two parties it may be stated, that in 1829 Dr. Trinks, a homoeopathic physician of Dresden, was legally indicated for drug poisoning and faulty treatment (failure to resort to blood-letting).

The patient was a typhoid case whom Dr. Trinks had treated for four days homoeopathically until she was admitted to a general hospital where she died five days later.” This case was not unique, and homoeopathic physicians were even deprived of the right of practising as a result of not resorting to blood- letting as a life saving device. As a natural result, the enemity between withdrew the last remnants of their recognition. “But it should be stated,” says the writer, “that the leaders of the Viennese school of pathologico-anatomical nihilists, Diet in particular, acknowledged that it was due to the doctrines of homoeopathy at they had entirely abandoned the practise of bleeding and were using its remedies with success.”

Such recognition, as well as the success of homoeopathy with the public at large, especially among the so-called better classes, did not tend to exterminate the warfare existing between the contending parties, and in the seventies and eighties of last centuries renewed attacks were directed against the Hahnemannians by leaders of Clinical Medicine.

The virulent anti-homoeopathic attacks launched during the past fifty years are characterized by their general failure to comply with the most fundamental demands of scientific objectivity. The aim of the writers is merely to villify and to kill. “Moreover, they are precluded from grasping the homoeopathic hypotheses by virtue of their unconditional materialistic viewpoint, the concepts of which are limited to the findings of pathological anatomy or of experimental pathology. Thus, it was a forgone conclusion that they would reduce to ridicule the object of their hostility.

But it is significant to note that certain principles which have been definitely demonstrated and which would seem to favor the homoeopathic ideas, such as the apparently homoeopathic operation of smallpox vaccination and later that of immunity therapy, have been rejected by them. They maintain that the former concerns prophylaxis and not treatment, and that the latter is something different, namely, Isopathy, which was also rejected by Hahnemann. All efforts on the part of modern homoeopaths to appropriate the results of modern medical research are met with distrust and with the remark that they can make no claim to these.

Throughout this entire literature, with the possible exception of Harnack, who at least makes an attempt to apply logic in the interpretation of homoeopathy, there is no evidence of a sincere desire to examine their methods and observations, and of complying with the first demands of criticism. They were doubtless unaware of the fact that by so doing they, as representatives of allopathy, were placing dangerous weapons in the hands of their opponents. Thus, it is not surprising that the unfavorable criticism of Jurgensen in particular, called forth a vehement reply.

It was by no means hard for the homoeopaths to show that his Therapeutics in the Light of Science, according to the principles of which he jeopardized the lives of his patients by ice-cold baths and daily doses of 5 gm. of quinine or 9 gm. of chloral, could not claim any superiority to the unscientific methods of homoeopathy.

“In contrast to the efforts of Official Medicine, whose only object was to exterminate homoeopathy, we find, towards the end of the past century, a number of their most prominent representatives imbued with a sufficiently strong sense of impartiability to consider the problem from a serious and objective point of view. Hugo Schulz of Gerifswald, in particular, has done this both in a theoretical and practical manner. He instituted tests of various remedies according to the homoeopathic plan, butt to our mind with more suitable methods (Methodic). In addition, he investigated the theoretic basis of the law of similars and that of dosage, which he has led to do more particularly through his studies of the biogenetic principle of Arndt.

This is not the place to judge the merits of his investigations; but it should be mentioned that the mere fact that his research lay along these lines sufficed to expose him to the suspicion of medical here by the entire body of scientific medicine, particularly by his own colleagues. But in compensation he has won the esteem of certain independent non-homoeopathic scientists, and Bier in particular has acknowledged that he owes to Arndt. This is not the place to judge the merits of his investigations; but it should be mentioned that the mere fact that his research lay along these lines sufficed to expose him to the suspicion of medical here by the entire body of scientific medicine, particularly by his own colleagues.

But in compensation he has won the esteem of certain independent non-homoeopathic scientists, and Bier in particular has acknowledged that he owes to Arndt the impulse which led him to undertake his own investigations along these lines. Furthermore, Much, in his work and investigation concerning vaccination therapy has, according to his own words built the bridge to connect with what is correct in so-called homoeopathy.

Finally, mention should be made of the therapeutic attempts of Ernst Neisser, Zondeck, Lowy and Kothe to treat exophthalmic goiter and ulcerous stomatitis by a homoeopathic method or one very closely resembling it. The most important communication and pronouncement is the one by Bier mentioned at the beginning of this article, and the manner in which it has been received by scientific Medicine clearly shows how hard it still is for the majority of persons to view this matter impartially”.

The writer concludes his survey by asking whether Medicine has any interest in settling its controversy with homoeopathy. In his opinion the answer must be decidedly affirmative, as this cleavage in an honorable profession is both senseless and undignified. “But to attain this end certain long cherished habits will have to be abandoned. In the first place, Official Medicine must realize that it will not compromise its dignity by taking up the consideration of homoeopathic problems otherwise than by merely declining to discuss them.

Moreover, it must bring historic justice to bear in considering the origin of these doctrines and must view Hahnemann, not as a heretic, but as a searcher after Truth, even though he followed strange paths and overestimated the magnitude of his work. Above all, it muse cease continually to insist on the principle of dynamism in his doctrine as constituting the fundamental evil. Why apply so much scientific prudery to this particular point?

The theory of Vitalism in cellular pathology has impeded medical progress as little as have the teleologico-vitalistic concepts of our modern pathology, such as adaptation, prophylaxis, self-regulation, etc., which are by-words in the mouths of our sincerest mechanists (?). We are merely concerned to determine whether Hahnemanns ideas, stripped of their ephemeral wrappings, as which they appear to us in the nature of dim anticipations of the theories of organ specificity and tropism, may in their essence prove to be adaptable to our present-day Medicine.

“This end can be attained if impartial scientists selected from both sides jointly undertake to test drugs demanded by homoeopathy and to supplement their investigation by the customary methods of research employed by non-homoeopathic Medicine. Not until this has been done can there be any question of the existence of a truly disinterested standpoint. But this same attitude of objectivity toward the homoeopaths will have to be demanded of them in exchange, and for this reason it is imperative that the object of the investigation be clearly defined before-hand.

Thus, the aim is not to convince the allopaths of the correctness and general applicability of homoeopathy, but forthwith to incorporate such homoeopathic principles as can be shown to be tenable and practicable into the body of Official Medicine, there to be left to their fate. Homoeopathy must vanish as a sect ! But in place thereof must arise homoeopathy, as a new or renewed integral part of our therapy it may contribute to the enrichment of Medicine as a whole. Every scientifically trained physician can conceive of but one form of Medicine; a division into homoeopathy and allopathy is a nonsensical anachronism, which must be destroyed once and for all time.

As it would be mistaken and suicidal on the part of homoeopathy to oppose such a development by adopting an attitude of esoteric limitation, so also would it be unpardonable on the part of the official school of Medicine to adhere to its scientific standpoint in so narrow and dogmatic a manner as to refuse to allow such a process of fusion to be effected”.

G. Honigmann