Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/788

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modes of treatment, merely from the fact that suggestion has been employed at the same time. This remark also applies to massage, etc., under analogous circumstances.

We are particularly anxious to call attention to the effect of moral treatment, and to the part taken in it by suggestion. This is no new thing; when the so-called fulminating pills are administered, suggestion is employed in the pilular form, and when pure water is injected under the skin, suggestion takes a hypodermic form. This medicine for the imagination is particularly to be recommended in that category of diseases which are of definite psychical origin.

This is not the place for insisting on the special indications of suggestion in therapeutics. The study just made is enough to show to what extent it may act on motor, sensory, or psychical phenomena, and consequently how it may be usefully employed in the treatment of the dynamic disturbances which are due to the influence of a psychical action, of a moral shock, or even of a peripheral excitement. Its effect can not any longer be disputed. It is, however, still difficult to give a rigorously scientific account of the results obtained, since few observations have as yet been published, and in some of these it is impossible to find an objective characteristic of hypnosis. Others, again, are incomplete, or published by incompetent persons, whose descriptions do not carry with them a conviction of the reality of the morbid state in question. Finally, precisely on account of the nature of its action, which is exclusively exerted on diseases in which there is no definite material lesion, and which are, therefore, purely dynamic, suggestion only cures affections which are capable of spontaneous modification, or which are influenced by various external agents. At present, therefore, it is difficult to establish the real value of this mode of treatment, although less difficult than in the case of many remedies in general use. It can only be said that it is founded on accurate notions of mental physiology, and consequently on a rational basis.

Since the possibility of curing a certain number of nervous diseases by means of hypnotism is established, it can not be disputed that physicians are justified in making use of it, under the same reservation as any other methods of therapeutics. The physician's responsibility is diminished if he has to treat an affection which would not yield to other measures; if he has obtained the consent of his patient and the concurrence of the patient's friends; and, finally, if he can show that he has acted prudently, with due consideration of the danger incurred by the patient, and with proper precautions against these risks.

Since the past history of hypnotism verged upon the marvelous, it had the privilege of exciting the curiosity, not only of learned men but of people in general. Exhibitions with which science had nothing to do made the public acquainted with a certain number of phenomena of which a criminal use might be made, and hypnotic sleep and suggestion have played a part in several judicial dramas. We think it