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concerned. This freedom of spirit, this moderation and charity for those of different sentiments, have frequently been ascribed, by narrow-minded people, to infidelity, scepticism, or, at least, lukewarmness in religion ; while, at the same time, some men, who were sincere and devout Christians, exasperated by such reproaches, have expressed themselves in an unguarded manner, and thus given their enemies an apparent ground of clamour against them. This, I imagine, has been the real source of that charge of infidelity so often and so unjustly brought against physicians. I will venture to affirm, that men of the most enlarged minds, clear and solid understandings, who have acted in life with the greatest propriety, spirit, and dignity, and who have been regarded as the most useful and amiable members of society, have never been the men who have openly insulted, or insidiously attempted to ridicule the principles of religion ; but, on the contrary, have been its best and warmest friends. Medicine, of all professions, should be the least suspected of leading to impiety. An intimate acquaintance with the works of nature elevates the mind to the most sublime conceptions of the Supreme Being, and at the same time dilates the heart with the most pleasing prospects of Providence. There are some peculiar circumstances in the profession of a physician, which should naturally dispose him to look beyond the present scene of things, and engage the heart on the side of religion. He has many opportunities of seeing people, once the gay and the happy, sunk in deep retired distress; sometimes devoted to a certain but painful and lingering death ; sometimes struggling with bodily anguish, or the still fiercer tortures of a distracted mind. Such afflictive scenes, one would suppose, might soften any heart, not dead to every feeling of humanity, and make it reverence that religion which can alone support the soul in the most complicated distresses; that religion, which teaches us to enjoy life with cheerfulness, and to resign it with dignity.”
Were we asked, we could point out the names of many living distinguished medical men, whose moral character and piety could not for a moment be questioned. Men, whose actions, and not professions, demonstrate the character of their minds. In all large bodies of men, many will undoubtedly be found who entertain very erroneous notions concerning religion ; but we utterly repudiate the assertion, that the medical profession, more than any other body of professional gentlemen, are open to the charge of infidelity and scepticism. A question, very frequently asked, is this; has
any good resulted from the medical discoveries of the present age? To this interrogatory, we say, that it can be demonstrated by a reference to statistical documents, that in proportion as the different branches which form the foundation of the science of medicine have been improved, so in proportion has the duration of human life been increased.
It is a fact, capable of demonstration, that since the healing art reached that point of cultivation, which has entitled it to rank among the sciences, disease has been gradually decreasing, both in frequency, malignancy, and fatality. And it is equally capable of demonstration, that the degree of perfection with which anatomy has been studied, at any successive periods, may be safely taken as the rule by which the progress of all the branches of medicine may be ascertained. And on what else should it depend; how much does a watchmaker know about a watch, by counting its beats, and looking at the outside ? As anatomy has been encouraged, so has medicine progressed. Wherever dissection was forbidden, surgery declined ; and even in the present day, the schools of medicine, in which dissection is most liberally practised, send out into society, surgeons and physicians, who seldom fail to prove, in after life, the accuracy of Baillie's assertion, that “ the dead body is that great basis on which we are to build the knowledge that is to guide us in distributing life and health to our fellow-creatures.”
Sir William Petty (who died 150 years since,) states, that the proportion of deaths to cures, in St. Bartholomew's and St. Thomas's Hospitals, during 1741, was one in ten; during 1780, the mortality had diminished one in fourteen; during 1813, one in sixteen; and that during the year 1827, out of 12,494 patients, 259 only were buried, or, one in forty-eight. His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex has justly observed, “such is the advantage which has been already derived from the improvement of medical science in the study of anatomy, that comparing the value of life as it is now calculated, to what it was an hundred years ago, it has absolutely doubled.
fatally malignant diseases have become comparatively mild in the hands of modern physicians. The entire half of our population, were at one time destroyed by one disease alone--the small-pox; the mortality of which, at the present time, is but partial. Typhus fever was once accustomed to visit this country in annual epidemics, and to slay one out of every three whom it attacked; whereas, in the present day, it is seldom seen as an epidemic, and its average mortality does not amount to one in sixteen. Measles, scarlet-fever, hooping-cough, and consumption, are now no longer regarded with the extreme terror in which they were once viewed. From the year 1799 to 1808, the mortality of consumption amounted to about 27 per cent. of those who became ill; from 1808 to 1813, it diminished to 23 per cent. ; and from 1813 to 1822, it still further decreased to 22
per cent." As anatomy was more attended to, surgery proportionally advanced; until, in the days of Harvey, (who discovered the circulation of the blood, in 1610,) bold and important operations were attempted. The extreme clumsiness and cruelty with which they were then performed could scarcely be credited, had we not in our possession, some descriptions of them, by those who operated. The preceptor of the immortal Harvey describes, what he considers an improved and easy operation, in the following terms: “If it be (speaking of tumours,) a moveable one, I cut it away with a red hot knife, that sears as it cuts; but if it be adherent to the chest, I cut it without bleeding, with a wooden or horn knife, soaked in aquafortis,
with which, having cut the skin, I dig out the rest with my fingers !!”
It is a little more than fifty years ago, when Mr. Sharpe, one of the most eminent surgeons in London at that time, denied the possibility of the thigh bone being dislocated at the hip joint; an accident which occurs daily, and which the merest bone-setter in the kingdom can now detect.
In the treatment of simple wounds surgeons were, at one time, really very rude and cruel. Instead of bringing the edges of the wound together, and endeavouring to unite them by the first intention, as it is practised in the present day, the wound was filled with dressings and acid balsams, or distended with tents and leaden tubes, in order to force the wound into a painful suppuration, which they considered necessary to effect a cure.
In those days, every flap of skin, instead of being re-united, was cut away; every open wound was dressed as a sore, and every deep one was plugged up with a tent, lest it should heal. Tents, syndons, setons, leaden canulas, and strong injections, were among the chief implements of ancient surgery. The lips of a wound were never put together; if it was not large and free, their rule was to dilate it, but never with the knife; with a sort of forceps, they tore it open; they seldom made counter openings to let out the matter, and the most simple wounds were often forced into malignant sores. These long tents were thrust into wounds of the neck and cheek, until the neck or head swelled enormously. Even in compound fractures,