Page:Hospitals, medical science and public health.djvu/18

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Medicine and the State.

There is no doubt some discontent in our profession that Medicine has not the rank and consideration which are its due; such as are accorded for example to the Church, the Law, the Navy and Army. Now in so far as any such uneasiness is engendered of petty personal ambitions we need not dwell upon it longer than to recollect that we shall attain to the social consideration we may deserve by the self-respect which ignores the trivial conceits of the day, which is quick to think for others, slow of offence. But this is not all. The physician, if a somewhat touchy person, is not arrogant; the discontent lies deeper and springs from more honourable motives; from a nobler jealousy for our calling, its achievements and services; from a restless sense of great powers not finding their full play and responsibility in the national functions and counsels. Thus regarded, our discontent may be justified, and desire only what is due to the honour and interests of the commonwealth.

Now there must be some reason, if Medicine has failed hitherto to rank with the other great services, why this is so. The answer is not difficult: that in so far as we are concerned only with individual pains, in so far, as some naughty wit has put it, as we are but plumbers and glaziers of the individual body, we have neither place nor claim to public recognition. It is in respect of our concern with the larger issues of public health that our service and responsibilities become national functions. In this respect, however, until yesterday and to-day, we had not the knowledge to justify our vocation. The history of Medicine, broadly speaking, is melancholy reading; it is a record of devastation by pestilence, deplorable blights upon family life, and catalogues of medical formulas and practices as prodigious as the plagues before which priest and physician alike vaunted themselves in vain. Open the pages at hazard, perchance at John Evelyn's story, but a common instance of a common fate. Of Evelyn's nine children only a son and a daughter reached adolescence, and one of these, in the words of Jeremy Taylor, "that pretty person your strangely hopeful boy," was then cut off also; the daughter alone survived him. The royal houses of Europe, time after time, were stricken or blighted by swift death, as was, for instance, the splendid