It seems paradoxical to say that the patients of a homoeopathic physician need instruction in homoeopathy. As a profession we are prone to look upon patients as already converts to the great truth of Similia from the mere fact of their seeking out aid. In this attitude we take too much for granted. That we have misjudged the motives which actuated their coming to us is often startlingly shown when a patient of some years standing says: “Doctor, just what is homoeopathy?”
Woe betide the man who can not give a satisfactory answer to that one! One should never beggar this question and lest one be unprepared, one should make a point of reviewing his knowledge of homoeopathy from time to time. The man who can talk extemporaneously is at a distinct advantage in the situation. If he can talk convincingly as well, imparting some of his own enthusiasm for the Law of Cure, he will surely make a convert who will remain ever a staunch supporter of homoeopathy.
It is much easier, of course to explain homoeopathy to a regular patient because he has already experienced its benefits. He does not need to be convinced that it does work, he merely wants to know why. A new patient, on the other hand, requires a somewhat different approach which is predicated upon ones estimation of the individual himself and the circumstances attendant upon his illness.
In acute conditions one can simply prescribe; if no questions are asked, none need be answered. The early and successful termination of the sickness is answer enough as regards the new doctors ability. This established one in the familys confidence; the chances, therefore, are good that one will be called in again. Eventually the question as to the nature of homoeopathy will come up and can be answered at leisure.
Often enough, however, an opportunity to discuss homoeopathic treatment will present at the first visit. I think this is especially true when called in attendance upon sick child in whom temperature is an outstanding feature of the illness. There are still many parents who are more concerned about the fever than about the more serious condition of which it may be a part. The 3-year-old who awakes from the afternoon nap “burning up” and “glassy-eyed” is enough to set a flutter with fear the heart of even the most phlegmatic of mothers. Father eyes you askance as you put a tiny powder in ten teaspoonful of warm water and carefully stir it. Mother does the same; both with one voice ask, “Is that something for the fever, Doctor?”
And here, right at hand is the golden opportunity no true homoeopath should willingly forego, however late the hour or weary the feet. It takes but a tiny minute to explain that fever isnt a disease; that children do not die of it; that temperature really has no more significance than any of the other symptoms. It takes but a few seconds more to show the foolishness of treating one symptom, the fever, when that is not making the baby sick; that the baby has fever because he is sick and that therefore you are prescribing for the baby.
You wont be any more tired if you use an additional minute or two in stating that your medicine is chosen to combat all the symptoms present because it is capable of producing similar symptoms in healthy people; that it works by stimulating the natural disease-resisting forces in the babys body and thus aids nature in driving out the sickness. Mother and Father can understand that explanation and appreciate its reasonableness; they are grateful, too, that you have made things clear to them and thus helped to allay their fears for the baby.
Still another situation requires the teaching of homoeopathy, when one is in attendance upon an acutely ill person, in which one creates the opportunity for discussion instead of leaving it to chance. I refer to illness in the so-called “up-to-date” family whose home is furnished with all the latest in furniture and mechanical gadgets and whose minds are equally cluttered with all the latest in medical knowledge. They read all the pseudo- scientific articles in the popular magazines; they subscribe to Hygeia and Parents; they listen to medical talks on the radio (none of which are homoeopathic, by the way; a lack which it is my fond hope will some day be supplied).
All they read and hear is accepted as “gospel” they are so intelligent as to be the most gullible people in the world! without the realization that the “gospel” of today is the heresy of tomorrow (except homoeopathy, which has always been heresy). It may be ones luck-whether good or bad, it is not me to say-to find the eldest son ill with pneumonia. As soon as one has announced ones diagnosis both parents want to know whether you are going to use sulfathiazole or some one of the others of the sulfa drugs. They also want to know what type of pneumococcus is present and, if it is type three, they think you had better use the appropriate serum too.
Well, here is the best opportunity one will ever have to “sell a bill of goods,” but one must talk fast and convincingly to do it. These people can not be fooled by anything less than “modern science.” One must not only explain homoeopathy adequately, but also show, statistically, that it is better than anything “modern science” has to offer. Here, the statistics compiled by the late Dr. E. Rodney Fiske of New York, and published in the October, 1928, number of the Journal of the American Institute of Homoeopathy, do much to prove to superiority of the homoeopathic treatment of pneumonia. Those figures represent ones heavy artillery. If the parents are still unconvinced and demand “modern treatment,” ones only recourse, as a homoeopath, is to refuse the case.
Patients suffering from chronic ailments represent a different problem. Having been the rounds without result they are naturally somewhat doubtful as to any physicians ability to help them. With these patients it is my firm belief that a frank approach to homoeopathy at the first visit is a necessity to insure a mutual understanding and to gain the sufferers cooperation. The very fact that other types of treatment have been unsuccessful lays the foundation for an acceptance of homoeopathy and one should take full advantage of the opportunity it offers for a rather detailed explanation of the Law of Cure.
True, some of the chronically ill are hard to convince, but that is all the more reason to be frank. Indeed, one must give such a patient the chance to refuse to have anything to do with homoeopathy, though not, of course, until he knows what it is he is refusing. And some of them will refuse to be treated according to your method, perhaps because your explanation lacks the necessary turn of phrase to make it convincing.
I well recall a recent patient, referred by one of my “fans,” who suffered from eczema. Of course he had had the usual local treatments and had been “cured” about four years before by a country doctor now deceased. This man was a “doubting Thomas,” if ever there was one, and, in spite of my ardent advocacy of the homoeopathic technique, I could sense that I was not “getting to first base.” While I was carefully explaining that skin symptoms were only a part of the outward manifestation of some deep-seated constitutional disturbance, he suddenly interrupted me to ask:.
“You mean I have an inward disease, Doctor?”.
“Yes,” I replied, “you took the words right out of my mouth”.
“Well, thats what I think, Doc. I told Dr. B. that was what the trouble was; but he said no, that it was just a skin disease”.
“You were right, Mr. K, and, though he was a good doctor, Dr. B. was wrong”.
“All right, Doc; Ill let you take my case”.
So in this instance a choice of words saved the day for me.
The chief point to be stressed in concluding this paper is that a thorough knowledge of homoeopathic principles and practice is an essential requisite in the Hahnemannians armamentarium. Without it he is helpless, not only to cure his patients, but also to answer the question, “Doctor, just what is homoeopathy?”.
DR. KAPLOWE: Dr. Sutherlands last description reminds me of a patient who came to me about five summers ago, and presented a terrible mass of eczema practically all over the body. I dont think he had a portion that was exempt, at least from the waist up. He recited to me his history, stating he had been suffering from hay fever for about six or eight years previously. This was the first time I had seen this man. I predicted to him that that summer he was not going to have hay fever. Of course, he looked at me in amazement and wondered whether I was turning prophet or not. I did nor prescribe for him that day. I could not work out the remedy. I told him to come back in a week but he did not show up.
In about a month he came back and he said, “I was waiting to see whether my hay fever would come back again, and it didnt, so I knew you were right”.
In other words, I had explained to him that the external manifestation of the inward trouble was representing an expenditure of the trouble and was substituted for a while but should that be suppressed, he would again have his hay fever. I took care of him from then on. He has been a loyal patient ever since.