Page:The Evolution of Surgery.djvu/23

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The Evolution of Surgery.

in the affirmative even the modern operation is a thing to avoid, while it should never be undertaken without a clear and definite aim.

A closely allied danger is that of extreme specialism which is another term for limitation of thought. Our bodies are not made, like our ships, in water-tight compartments. You cannot derange one organ or one function without also injuring others. Specialisation is to some extent inevitable because the ground to be covered in the study of medicine is so enormous that no human being can be equally familiar with all its parts, and in surgery especially the acquirement of technical skill requires the concentration of our attention on certain regions. But although inevitable it is none the less a misfortune of modern surgery. It tends to narrow our view, to make us lose sight of the human being in the consideration of our own favourite corner of his frame, to lead us into locating all his ills in that corner, and sometimes perhaps to make us operate upon that corner when it would have been wiser to adopt other measures. Is there not reason to fear that there are to-day some well-known, greatly distinguished and exceedingly brilliant surgeons whose reputation for, let us say, amputating the little finger, is somewhat shadowed by the suspicion that they may amputate that digit when it was hardly worthy of such honour? This tendency we all have to resist and resistance is not made more easy by the attitude of the laity who almost demand that our work shall be thus one-sided, although they are not always so crude in their reasoning as the gentleman who, having been told that he was suffering from neurasthenia, looked up that condition in an Encyclopaedia and then consulted a well-known surgical "specialist" on the ground that he found it in the appendix.

On the other hand it is also doubtful whether our