Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/91

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THE HYGIENIC TREATMENT OF CONSUMPTION.

THE HYGIENIC TREATMENT OF CONSUMPTION.
By BENJAMIN WARD RICHARDSON, M. D., F. R. S.

THE progress of hygienic medicine in the last fifty years is the medical fact of the present age, and the fact that will stand out in boldest relief when the history of this period shall be written by some future Æsculapian scholar.

But, rapid and effective as this progress has been, the principles of hygiene are yet in their infancy. We have learned to appreciate the true value of hygienic principles in the prevention of diseases of the epidemic type; and the medical profession, throwing aside all selfish recollections, has been the first to teach the practice of these principles and to prove their force and vitality. The next step in the way of advancement is to demonstrate that the same principles are as useful and as necessary in the treatment of actual disease as they are in prevention.

A great advantage in the hygienic treatment of disease is, that it does not, or at least need not, interfere with sound and experience-proved modes of treatment of a medicinal kind. The scientific physician finds, in fact, that there is always a consistent plan for combining the medicinal and hygienic systems. He sees that the two systems are one; he sees further that the mere medicinal plan without the hygienic is in all cases imperfect, and in some cases worse then imperfect.

The practical details of hygienic medicine in relation to the treatment of disease have, however, yet to be wrought out more fully. This will be sure work, but slow. Necessarily slow, because it is hard to give up old friendships in dogmatism; while to effect a cure in a sick man by fresh air alone, or diet, is infinitely less satisfactory to the public than to assume to effect the same cure even by a bread-pill.

It is vain, it is sticking in the slough of hopelessness, to pander to these popular weaknesses; for though they must die out, and, indeed, are dying out daily, they will go the sooner if they are effectually damped, and if something real and common sense is put in their place. Scientiæ mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis. There is a time when medicines are invaluable; but, if faith in medicines is to be retained, the times for their administration, as well as their selection, must be learned by knowledge, not by routine, and must be dictated by the circumstances of the case, not by the caprice of the patient. The executive of medicine must be independent, if it would keep in the path of truth and advancement.

In such progress as has been made in the science of treatment by medicines, it has been found useful to take up certain particular diseases, and to observe in them, individually, the effects of particular remedies. This rule will apply with equal force in considering and