THE question, “What has Homoeopathy done for Gynaecology?” having been raised and proposed as a theme for one of the essays at this meeting, our honored chairman assigned it to me, and it was accepted with the expectation that an answer to such a question, even if not altogether satisfactory, would be tolerably easy; but the task has proved a much more difficult one than I anticipated. The difficulty lies not in any doubt of the good work done by Homoeopathy in this field, but in the absence of positive evidence regarding the administration of any one remedy in my given class of cases, the uncertainty regarding the conditions for which remedies are prescribed in many instances- especially when based wholly upon subjective symptoms-and in the want of knowledge regarding the pathogenesy of the remedies reported as curative.
If possessed of that unquestioning and implicit faith which knows or recognizes no conditions or exceptions to the power of Homoeopathic medication to overcome and cure each and every human ill, regardless of cause or character, it would be very easy to claim that Homoeopathy and at least furnished the means, if we but make ourselves competent to use it, by which all that gynaecology or any other class of diseases presents for relief may be successfully met; and with the exalted power of imagination which can see the most marvelous effects follow the administration of a drop of water or a grain of sugar, it would not be difficult to demonstrate, to our own satisfaction, at least, that by such means more remarkable cures have been and are being effected than by any or all other methods.
But I cannot treat the subject from any such standpoint. We want to know if definite and unquestionable results can be shown as the direct effect of Homoeopathic treatment in women’s diseases, whether independent of or associated with other measures.
While we all, doubtless, believe and feel sure, from experience and observation, that such results are produced, to define and demonstrate this so that it cannot be gainsaid is a very different matter, and which I do not except to succeed in doing this to any great extent, I shall hope to prepare the way, and perhaps indicate the lines along which, by the testimony of those who may bear witness in the discussion to follow, the demonstration may be made and the fact established. Let us, then, seem to make all our claims rational and based upon known facts, not upon theories or assumptions. Thus only can we command or reasonably expect a fair and respectful hearing.
In the consideration of such a question as this the term gynaecology must be understood to mean broadly the diseases and derangements of the female generative organs, not only in the degrees which bring them under the care of the gynecologist, but in all degrees as presented to the general practitioner or family physician as well, and we must all realize that it is less from the gynaecological specialists than from the family physicians that the evidence of the curative power of Homoeopathic remedies must be expected.
While this by some may be deemed a concession, or even an admission of the preferred charges that gynaecologists are not good Homoeopaths, I shall deny this, and maintain that it is but a natural and necessary consequence, inasmuch as homoeopathy, per se, has to do with nothing but the therapeutic in any case, and it it generally recognized that therapeutic means are most marked and definite in their effects upon functional derangement and the early manifestations of disease in all departments of practice; and because the work to be done by specialists is largely that which other physicians, by therapeutic methods, have not succeeded in doing, and which generally demand some form of surgical or mechanical treatment.
From the recorded evidence of the skilful prescribers of Homoeopathic remedies, we may reasonably claim that by this means a large proportion of the functional derangements of women ar speedily and perfectly corrected without the need of any other form of treatment, and that a very considerable proportion of the diseases-that is, the pathological changes to which the uterine organs are subject are prevented or cured at the very outset by the same means.
Now, while this may not be capable of absolute or positive proof, we certainly have strong circumstantial evidence for it in the fact that women who from childhood have been under the care of the Homoeopathic physicians have far less of this class of disease than those who have not been so fortunate, and also in the fact that the general practitioners of Homoeopathy have few cases which they feel compelled to sent to the gynaecologists as compared with those of the Old School, who have not the means of relief which our Homoeopathic medicines afford.
Now, while we know that in all spheres and relations of life little credit is given those who guard and protect from impending dangers, as compared with that accorded those who rescue the victim from the very teeth of the destroyer; yet it is as true in this as in any other instance that “an ounce of prevention is better than a point of cure,” and who will not agree that to save a woman from the mental as well as physical suffering which attends the development and course of a uterine or mammary cancer, for instance is to bestow a far greater blessing than it is possible for even the most skilful surgeon to bring when his services are necessitated, and because the life which, if saved by the surgeon’s skill, is a shattered and blighted one at best, by the other means is enabled to develop all its powers, to ripen and produce its fruits free from the torture, the impending danger of which was no less real because only in its incipiency.
And so, while the surgeon who succeeds in saving the fragments of such lives, even for a few years, winds honor, fame, and wealth, they who had done so much more by protecting and saving lives in their entirety are unrecognized and without reward; often without even the gratitude of the patients, who do not realize what has been done for them.
In this very way Homoeopathy is doing for its friends and adherents vastly more than they realize or even suspect, and in such a gentle and unpretentious manner that little credit is given and scarcely any evidence recorded. Innumerable cases of this class, that is of, prevention or cure in the embryonic stages of disease, many times unknown to either the patient or the physician, are to be credited to a system of healing which is competent to meet the enemy at any point and in any form; to fortify against and ward it off without being compelled to wait its full development or to learn its exact name and nature before active for relief can be adopted.
This claim will not be allowed, I am not well aware, except by those who know and feel the influence and power of this law of cure; but though we cannot, of course, prove prevention in any individual case, we could, were it practicable, by a comparison of our lists of patrons with a like number differently treated, demonstrate its validity. We cannot wonder nor much blame our Old-School brethren for doubting our claim when we remember that they have so generally lost all, or nearly all, faith in the power or virtue of drugs except as opiates to destroy the consciousness of pain, tonics to stimulate nature’s efforts, or alternatives to disturb existing functional derangements, hoping that out of the disturbance nature may evolve an improved condition.
But to any physician who has had any considerable experience in the Homoeopathic application of remedies, numberless instances of relief and cure will be recalled to mind by the mere mention of Aconite, Arsenicum, Bryonia, Belladonna, Cimicifuga, Colocynthis, Gelsemium, Helonias, Mercurius, Thuja, Viburnum, and scores of other remedies; and if you would, one and all, furnish definite and accurate reports of your experience, we could compel a recognition of the claim that Homoeopathic remedies in the hands of skilled prescribers can and do cure most cases of functional derangement and prevent or cure in their incipiency a considerable portion of the diseases of women.
Here, then, before reaching the sphere of the gynaecologist, we find the proof of Homoeopathy in gynaecology of which we may well feel proud. But it does not end here, the opinion of some of our critical brethren to the contrary notwithstanding. I think I am safe in claiming that in the practice of Homoeopathic gynaecologists fully one-half the cases which, under Old-School treatment, would remain uncured or be subjected to surgical operation are cured by homoeopathic treatment.
Not every case is thus curable, and many demand surgical treatment. But we do, by combining Homoeopathic medication with the needed mechanical measures, cure many pathological conditions; such, for example, as metritis and endometritis, pelvic peritonitis, ovaritis, uterine dislocations, fibroid tumors, salpingitis, etc. And we have some well-authenticated cases in which ovarian cysts have disappeared during the continued application of the indicated remedy; and not only this, but very many who have endured for a longer or shorter season the attempts of the Old-School specialists to cure, come to us and find the relief they had previously failed to receive; and certainly not because we are better mechanics, but because we have the Homoeopathic remedies to aid us; and this is equally true in cases which require surgical treatment.
While the knife removes the cause of the difficulty, the remedies remove many serious effects, and afford relief to the suffering nerves unknown to any other method of treatment. And not only this, but the healing of wounds and convalescence are more rapid and perfect when thus treated than when opiates and poisonous drugs and dressing are used.
Inasmuch as it is becoming ever more evident that the sufferings of women which gynaecologists we called upon to relieve are very largely neurasthenic, or of nervous origin, and that even the removal of pathological conditions, especially by surgical means, does not always give complete and of times little or no relief, we find new and increasing reasons for endeavoring to find Homoeopathic remedies to meet these conditions, and I believe it is because our remedies, rightly applied, act upon and through the nervous system chiefly that their effects, even when intended to act upon a pathological condition, or a certain organ, have been more potent than the cruder methods which shock or numb rather than regulate the nervous forces.
I feel that it would be hardly just on my part not to state that the specialists (or perhaps I need speak only for myself) do not adhere strictly or exclusively to highly attenuated medicaments nor to the more common method of administration per oris. Experience has taught me that in treating the diseases and derangements of the pelvic organs I can get much more decided and speedy effects by applying glyceroles, triturations, cerates, or in some cases crude substances to the mucous or denuded surfaces, the medication being selected to correspond with the symptoms just as in any other class of cases, or for the ordinary manner of administration. And we can maintain with the highest of authority, hahnemann himself, that such medication is no loss Homoeopathic than giving the same remedies for similar conditions by the mouth.
While in our surgical cases, by the use of Calendula, Hypericum, Hamamelis, Arnica, etc., rapid healing is promoted, suffering is greatly lessened, and with the further aid of other indicated remedies before and after operations, opiates are rendered unnecessary in nearly all cases, and convalescence thus promoted and hastened; and while in our office practice we are curing active congestion of the uterine organs, attended by the characteristic symptoms of Belladonna by a local application of glyceroles of that drug, the passive or venous congestions with Hamamelis, syphilitic ulcers with Mercurius corr., indurations or hyperplasia with Iodine, etc., and doing it much more surely and speedily than it can be done otherwise, who shall deny that Homoeopathic gynaecologists are as truly and effectively demonstrating the power of Homoeopathy as they who prescribe these same remedies in attenuated form and by the mouth for more like conditions?
Feeling as we do that we have a right to claim much for Homoeopathy in gynaecology, it must still be admitted that much more might and should be accomplished in this field; and I am granted the privilege of indicating some of the means by which more definite and convincing results may in future be obtained.
First of all, we must have more thorough provings of our remedies by women, and with competent observation of their effects upon the pelvic organs. As it is, we have very few pathogenetic symptoms to guide us in selecting remedies, and hence empiricism plays too large a part in our use of remedies; and while we may claim that the remedy which effects a cure is therefore Homoeopathic, unless we have a proving to correspond to our case we cannot establish our claim before an impartial jury.
We have at present, more than ever before, women who, as members of the profession, must realize the importance of this work, and some measures should be adopted to establish and endow, if necessary, a school of proving to which they might be induced to lend their aid, where thorough work and reliable observations could be secured and recorded. When this has been done, it will enable the general practitioner to cure a still larger proportion of incipient diseases without the aid of the gynaecologist, and at the same time will give to the specialist greatly increased means of successfully treating the more serious diseases of women, and rendering surgical treatment a much less frequent necessity.
Secondly, there should be greater accuracy in the observation and reporting of cases in order to make clinical experience a more reliable guide. Accurate diagnosis by physical examination is essential in every case if we are to pretend to state the pathological condition. Yet so many instances are on record in which cures of definite conditions, as of endometritis, or even tumors, for instance, are claimed, in which it is found upon investigation that no examination was made and hence no knowledge possessed of the pathological changes present, that it not only renders these reports worthless as evidence, but it throws suspicion upon all much claims.
And again, cases in which no records are kept, and which may have occurred some considerable time previous to being reported, are so likely to be smoothed over and rounded out with the lapse of time that they take on a form and appear to have a significance which could not be depended upon and which destroy their value as evidence. It is important, then, that we keep written records of the cases we report, and that we have a definite knowledge of the objective as well as subjective symptoms in each case.
Who can doubt that with these conditions, with the greater knowledge of the Homoeopathic remedies which thorough provings by educated women would afford, a showing could be made of Homoeopathy in gynaecology which would surprise even its most ardent friends. This we may hope for at some future World’s Congress, but at this time I can only ask, in closing, that the army of family physicians here present substantiate my claim that Homoeopathy in their hands cures a large proportion of women’s diseases and renders its adherents much less subject to such ills than those otherwise treated; and by the gynaecologists I hope to be reinforced in my claim that we have in Homoeopathy a means of curing many conditions which baffle all other resources, and that in aid of surgery it has proved itself a reliable and powerful ally.
A.C. COWPERTHWAITE, M.D.: As I heard this most excellent paper read, the thought came to me, what if it were possible to- day to have presented to us a panorama of those silent yet actual witnesses to the benefit that Homoeopathy has been to gynaecology. We ourselves would be astounded at that which has been accomplished without even our own knowledge. At the same time another thought struck me in a little different direction, and that was, that in all that Homoeopathy has done for gynaecology it has not done one-half, or one-tenth, of what it would have been glad to do if it had only been given half a chance.
We must admit that when a man becomes a specialist, his tendency as the first speaker of the afternoon said, is to become intense specialist, and so we find that while not all, a great many gynaecologists become so wedded to their instruments and their mechanical measures that they forget the power of the armamentarium that they have behind them.
I am glad to hear a paper like this, even if our brother does prescribe his remedies in crude doses and apply them locally. I have always been one of the number that believe we had to do that. I remember I had to get out of the hotel at Milwaukee where I was one of the charter members of the International, because I would not subscribe to the doctrine of never using local applications.
But at the same time that does not fill the bill entirely and exclusively. We should not for one moment forget that there is something in the powerful action of potentized, or if you prefer, “attenuated” drugs, that reaches beyond and deeper, and does more than the mere local applications of drugs, no matter how beneficial that may be to certain local conditions that may exist.
I remember reading some years ago a very beautiful account, written by Dr. Mercy B. jackson, of Boston, now deceased, of her own experience of the effects of Sepia upon her own person when suffering from uterine displacements. She said that she could feel that medicine, by its mighty power, raising the uterus into position, and it did it and it stayed there; and there are plenty of Homoeopathic physicians who have had similar experiences in their own practice. I want to ask of you to-day candidly, how many gynaecologists do you suppose carry Sepia around with them as one of their chief anchors in the treatment of diseases of women? I never have known one yet. I do not care how use it, we have in this one remedy, Sepia, one of the grandest remedies of Homoeopathy and yet one of its most neglected ones.
Now to come to the point made in this paper which I consider of far more benefit to us here to-day as being of some assistance in helping us develop something in this line than any other part of this all valuable paper. That is the suggestion that has been made to the ladies. I have often wondered why the lady gynaecologists did not band themselves together for the good of their common sex. Why it was that, knowing as they do know the tortures that are being continually perpetrated upon their sex by gynaecologists, they do not put their heads together and try to see how to modify these measures; yet there is very little tendency in that direction.
I was told by a gentleman, and I hope if he is present he will pardon me, that while he had nothing to say about male gynaecologists, if he wanted one that was real harsh, and would stretch and tear and bend, just give him a woman gynaecologist; that they did not seem to have any feeling for their sex in these matters.
Now that may be not altogether so, but think for a moment if there is not some truth in it, and if it is not a proper thing for the ladies in the Homoeopathic profession to follow the suggestion laid down in this paper; to go right to work and see what more there is in Homoeopathy that has not been applied in its proper methods. Organize provers’ clubs, which you alone can do; conduct them according to your own wise methods; establish the value of our remedies in a way that none but yourselves can possibly do, and then show to the world by the practical application of these remedies what Homoeopathy can do for gynaecology.
I believe, as I am one of those who have always strongly favored ladies, that this suggestion will be taken as coming from a friend.
And so we find that Homoeopathy has done something for gynaecology. We cannot give a long row of blooming statistics here today. We might give many. The statistics are hidden in the quiet recesses of many hearts and even some of those hearts that have been most benefited know it the least; and so, if we will but take to our bosoms the truths that have been given us by Dr. Phillips and have less of our mechanical and surgical measures and more of our therapeutics-combining our Materia Medica more completely and thoroughly with our mechanical measures-in ten years from now there can be a great deal more said as to what Homoeopathy has done for gynaecology, than can possibly be said to-day.
W.P. McCRACKEN, M.D.: I would like to make a cry against the over-local treatment and to do it clearly and concisely, and in five minutes. I will give you a case. a young girl of twenty in the fall of 1873 became very ill suddenly. She was taken to old Dr. Foster of Clifton Springs Sanitarium. It was pronounced a nervous and mental trouble, and Dr. Prince, whom some of you may know, was her physician. She was there six months. In the summer of 1874, at her own request, she went to Dr. John P. Gray, of Utica, and between the summer of 1874 and the fall of 1878 she spent three years and one month in the Utica Insane Asylum under John P. Gray’s care and that of his colleague, Dr. Andrews, who has since become superintendent of the buffalo Insane Asylum.