Read before Connecticut Homoeopathic Medical Society, May 16, 1939.
EUGENE UNDERHILL, JR., M.D.
The practice of medicine calls into action many powers of the mind. A physician must be a trained observer. Nothing of importance in relation to a case should escape his attention. In his student days he was compelled to exercise and develop his powers of concentration or else he would never have graduated.
Although modern diagnostic instruments and techniques have tremendously widened the physicians range of sensory perception, they have not altered the fundamental sequence of reaction and correlation existing between the higher centres in the brain and those governing the organs of special sense. Interpretation of the information received through the five senses is important function of the mind and one requiring careful cultivation.
Simple reactions to sensory perception are the rule in the animal kingdom. In man the reactions can be almost as simple and unthinking and that is about as far as many people ever get. They fail to utilize the thinking principle and the higher attributes of the mind.
The acuity of the organs of special sense can be marvelously developed, as illustrated by the increased efficiency of the tactile and auditory sense functions in many cases of blindness. The sensitivity of taste and olfaction can be developed to a remarkable degree by the requirements of necessity or by ones occupation and by suitable dietetic modification. Every physician of experience has travelled miles just to determine by the sense of touch the probable presence or absence of a surgical emergency involving the abdomen.
Over dependence upon laboratory reports has apparently been detrimental to the art of clinical observation and yet, as to their relative values, we have the word of Dr. Julian C. Pate, of Tampa, Florida, particularly in regard to the x-ray. Speaking before the Second Annual Assembly of the American Chapter International Congress of Surgeons in Philadelphia, October 14, 1938, Dr. Pate said that, in his opinion, clinical findings are more to be relied upon that x-ray and laboratory findings. He recommended that doctors ignore x-ray findings when not backed up by clinical symptoms.
There is good reason to mourn the passing of the old family doctor. He may have been somewhat short on technique as well as cash, but he possessed a vast store of common tense. He was a keen student of human nature. His chief instruments of precision were his five senses. His kindliness and friendliness were proverbial and he was a real philosopher. Riding along the quiet countryside in the old horse buggy afforded him ample opportunity for reflection and meditation, and when finally he arrived at the home of his next patient he brought with him a fuller realization of the meaning of life and of his own proper place in the scheme of things.
Failure to think things through is a major curse of this day and age. People and events are moving so swiftly that even the cerebral cortex is in danger of losing its convolutions and becoming streamlined. Constructive thought, reflection and meditation will strengthen and develop the higher faculties of the mind.
The amount of undigested knowledge in the world is so stupendous as to stagger the imagination. Never in recorded history has man been in possession of more facts, never has there been a larger volume of data scientifically accumulated and painstakingly checked and classified. But, as observed by Alexis Carrel in his book, Man, The Unknown, very little has been distilled from this vast array of material to give us an improved pattern of living, better health or greater happiness.
Without philosophy or a knowledge of the general laws that furnish the rational explanation of things man must ever remain in ignorance and confusion.
Modern medicine is seriously infected with the virus of the machine age. Techniques and technicians, specialities and specialists are developing the experimental and commercial aspects of practice and as these trends increase philosophy wanes and the art of healing suffers a detriment.
It would be wonderful if the effect of every prophylactic or therapeutic measure could be strictly limited to the protective or remedial action desired by the prescriber. Then laxative drugs would attend strictly to business and their only effect would be to move the bowels. Vaccination would protect against smallpox and there would be no unfavorable consequences. X-ray and radium treatments would never be followed by suffering and disfigurement and surgery would be just as wonderful and marvelous as the public thinks it is. That, however, is not the way it works. There are results which are proximate and obvious and there are others which are ultimate, remote and obscure.
Laxatives are prescribed and although the immediate results may be satisfactory the unintentional future effect may prove unfortunate. It has required years of observation for even a minority of the profession to realize that the habitual use of mineral oil tends not only to interfere with nutritional balance, but that it favors the development of colitis and may cause an insidious degeneration of the gastrointestinal mucosa. Ingestors of liver pills and herb laxatives may get the intended kick and maintain fairly satisfactory elimination for years, but there comes a time when the unanticipated effects become increasingly distressing. The operation may have been very successful, but the physician who treats the patient after the surgeon is through often comes to see things in a different light.
Failure of physicians to see beyond the immediately desired effects of their prescribed therapy is causing an untold amount of needless suffering. The steady increase in mental and nervous disorders and degenerative diseases is the result of many causes, all of which can be reduced to quite simple terms — unhygienic living, plus pathogenetic therapeutics, for it not infrequently happens that the treatment is actually and absolutely worse than the disease.
As regards both safety and efficiency, homoeopathy is outstanding in the therapeutic field. Founded upon natural law it is satisfying both to the scientist and the philosopher. Great in its simplicity and marvelous in its healing power, it is frequently too exotic for the commercially minded and too esoteric for the man of materialistic mold. Medicine in general stresses science and minimizes philosophy. Homoeopathy, on the other hand, emphasizes both science and philosophy.
To become a successful homoeopathic physician one must have a sincere desire to help others “without distinction of race, creed, sex or condition”. Mixed motives on the part of the physician confuse the issue and retard true scientific and therapeutic advance. Hahnemann said in the Organon: “The physicians high and only mission is to heal the sick”.
We are prone to think of the law of similars as related only to drug therapy. Its scope and application are wider than that. The modalities of heat, cold, light, color, vibration, electricity, sound and even the subtle potency of suggestion can be prescribed from a homoeopathic standpoint as truly and as effectively as either Nux vomica or Pulsatilla. The actual homoeopathic application of some of these agents is, of course, related to future.
In the Pythagorian Academy at Crotona two and one-half millenniums ago the study of music was obligatory, not only as a science but as a healing agent. In the same academy patients were also treated magnetically during sleep with apparently brilliant results and there is every reason to infer that these methods were essentially homoeopathic and may some day be re-discovered.
The successful practice of homoeopathy requires a constant attitude of awareness on the part of the physician. If he is ” asleep at the switch” when new remedy indication are coming into view, whole trainloads of symptom may escape his attention, with the result that the case may be turned in a wrong direction by an incorrect prescription, or he may fail to discover, and therefore remove, some serious obstacle to recovery.
Apparently small and insignificant factors may prove of considerable moment in some cases. Failure to delete from the patients diet a daily cup of hot chocolate or a routine midnight snack might result in failure to cure a stubborn, long-standing case of gastrointestinal dysfunction, especially if the indicated remedy is obliged to contend against the resistance of a more or less developed pathology.
remove, some serious obstacle to recovery. Apparently small and insignificant factors may prove of considerable moment in some cases. Failure to delete from the patients diet a daily cup of hot chocolate or a routine midnight snack might result in failure to cure a stubborn, long-standing case of gastrointestinal dysfunction, especially if the indicated remedy is obliged to contend against the resistance of a more or less developed pathology.
We are accustomed to think of a philosopher as a calm, thoughtful, unruffled person, one not subject to panic or hysteria, and yet physicians supposedly well grounded in homoeopathic philosophy become jittery sometimes on a difficult case and resort to antipathic prescribing and strong-armed methods of treatment. There is really no excuse for panic. Call in a consultant, if necessary, but do not resort to hysterical prescribing or to demonstrations of pseudo-scientific therapeutics.
Why give the patient “the works”? Stick to the law. There is no reason why a patient should not have the privilege and the benefit of breathing his last under expert homoeopathic care. It is generally the easiest way out. A patient once said: “Doctor, you have done one thing for me; you have taken away that awful fear of death. I am not afraid to go now.” What further medication would anyone suggest in a hopeless and apparently incurable case? The prescription was the true similimum and the physician heaven-sent.