Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/865

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Messrs. Editors:

DR. F. L. OSWALD'S answer in your last issue to my criticism demands a reply, for the purpose of elucidating who is in the right on questions closely appertaining to every one's welfare.

His personal allusions may be at once thrust aside as irrelevant. The reading public can not be interested in me, but presumably in my statements, whether they are true or false—not whether I am assuming, which I am not, to represent some forty thousand physicians of the so-called orthodox school.

Dr. Oswald antagonizes my statement that the tendency to dyspepsia is an inherited one, by a glittering generality. Can I "deny that from the moment of birth millions of infants are overfed and drug-poisoned"? Well, what of the millions that are not? Are they the ones who do not show any such tendency, despite the fact that some of their progenitors do? Let him produce his proofs, or hold his peace. Such an answer to overthrow an established doctrine, unless verification be produced of causal relation between the antecedents and consequents, is not worth the paper on which it is written. To illustrate: I can with equal plausibility deny that insanity is hereditary by the assumption that it arises de novo from a source whose reality Dr. Oswald can not deny, that millions of children are from the moment of birth overfed and then over-taxed by brain-work at school; or, in the example of consumption, that heredity has nothing to do with it, for are not millions overfed and lung-poisoned by impure air from the moment of birth? Such is the style of sophomoric inanity which assumes to overthrow the doctrine established by vital statistics and by the observation of all competent men, that all organic defects, whether inherited or slowly acquired, are transmissible qualities.

Dr. Oswald answers to his inconsistency of cleansing his outside skin with soap and water, and allowing his much-abused and betimes very filthy inside one—the alimentary mucous membrane to cleanse itself, by the inquiry, "Does Nature ever protest against soap and water?" She does, as every practical physician well knows. Turn to any standard author on skin-diseases, and the use of any kind of soap will be found to be prohibited in some cases, especially in those whose cuticles, like homœopathic remedies, are far too tenuous. The striking benefit of a cleansing cathartic which men and women often feel, after having suffered for days from a dead, heavy, aching languor, is such a common realization that Dr. Oswald may save himself the trouble of elaborating a specious theory to prove them deluded, for facts are such stubborn things.

And this brings me to the silly slang characteristic of all kinds of quacks—their never-ending harping about "poison-drugs." It is their shibboleth, the great hope of gain to themselves by acting on the fears of the afflicted. What is a poison? It is any substance taken into the body which with more or less rapidity tends to destroy life. This embraces every substance except foods, air, and drink—from the clay eaten by the Brazilian, to the alcohol in the beer of the Teuton. Do a few grains of santonine, to expel lumbricoides from the bowels, tend to destroy life or to preserve it? Do a few ounces of alcohol, to tide failing vital power over a dangerous depression, tend to destroy life or to preserve it? Do a few doses of quinine, to arrest an ague-chill, tend to destroy life or to preserve it? Or, to put the query in another form, Do the effects of the santonine, the alcohol, and the quinine, tend to aggravate or to render the disorders for which they are given more dangerous? Even a Dr. Oswald, or a Dio Lewis, who contradicts the almost universal experience that they tend to preserve life instead of destroying it (that is, do not act as poisons), may be asked for the evidence to show that nearly all the world are wrong, and they only are right. If a few doses of quinine could produce profound and dangerous vital disturbances at all approaching those of the fever for which the medicine is given, then Dr. Oswald might have at least one string to his harp. If, after taking fifteen grains of quinine, he was seized with a severe chill—with burning fever, with aching misery in every bone and nerve of his body—with vomiting, with protracted debility and wasting of the body, and, after a few doses more, with a congestive chill, ending life in a few hours, then Dr. Oswald might with good reason take up the battle-cry of quackery, "Poison! poison!" Until Dr. Oswald proves that the quinine does not preserve from these very dangers to health and life, leaving no ill effects except those that belong to the disease—his ipse dixit about drug-poisoning is on the same level and has exactly the same value as the venal drivel of other quacks whose shibboleth he adopts. Let me say to him that enlightened therapeutists give medicines nearly always