Page:The Evolution of Surgery.djvu/24

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The Evolution of Surgery.

present lines of professional cleavage are the best. To-day we make a sharp division between medicine and surgery, a division dating from long before the dawn of modern surgery. We have physicians who devote themselves to one branch of therapeutics and surgeons who perhaps tend to exaggerate the other. Is this a good thing or is it a permanent condition? This question I for one am not prepared to answer. We may admit that in many cases the patient would probably be the gainer if the physician were ready and able to perform his own operations—if, for example, the great neurologist could remove the cerebral tumour. On the other hand we must admit that a wide experience of general surgery is essential to one who would perform any operation and that, if the physician is to operate at all, the members of the senior branch of our profession must condescend to soil their hands with all the details of the work which we surgeons have evolved from the homely task of the mediæval barber. That this could be done and might be done is possible, and I think it not improbable that ultimately it will be done. At least there is a great precedent in its favour in the fact that a large section of the surgical work of twenty-five years ago has now been cut adrift under the name of gynæcology, in which branch of medicine the old distinction of physician and surgeon has almost disappeared.

However this may be, let us not lose sight of the fact that after all the greatest surgeon is the greatest healer, and not necessarily or invariably the most dextrous operator. And we may humble a little our pride in our art when we consider that it must always remain but an imperfect means towards one great end—the extinction of disease. Great as have been its triumphs and greater still as we hope to make them, the greatest triumph will be when a fuller knowledge of the causes of disease, a more perfect development of preventive medicine, a