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Homoeopathy and the Board of Health.

- The Special Committees on Cholera of the Homoeopathic Societies of the Counties of New York, Kings and Westchester publish the following statement of our efforts to obtain admission for our mode of practice into the cholera hospitals which might be established by the Metropolitan Board or Health, in view of a threatening epidemic. And this we do, not only as a matter of medical history, but also as an act of self-defense, inasmuch as a report has been or late circulated in some quarters, that we have had a fair offer made us which we dared not accept. A brief investigation of the manner and terms of this so-called offer will show that it was not fair, but the very contrary. Indeed, from the nature of these terms, it must have been known beforehand, that we neither could nor would accept them. Yet we must give the medical members of the Board of Health, who compose the Sanitary Committee, the credit for having recognized our right to make a claim for admission; for, this recognition, though barren of any practical result, called down upon them the righteous indignation of the New York Academy of Medicine, that “power behind the throne,” which prevents its members from granting as physicians, rights which, as citizens and legislators, they would concede.

On the 27th of April, 1866, we addressed a letter to the Metropolitan Board of Health, offering “to furnish reputable and qualified physicians to apply the homoeopathic treatment to cholera patients, and asking that “one hospital and district in each county of the Metropolitan District may be assigned to such physicians as may be nominated to the Board of Health for that purpose by the Homoeopathic Medical Society of the respective counties; this hospital to be under the sole charge and direction of said homoeopathic physicians, subject only to the supreme control of the Board of Health, and open at all times to the visits of Inspectors appointed by the Board, and of the public, in so far as the Board may permit.”

To this, the only response received was through the public prints, which stated that the Committee of the Board of Health had reported in favor of granting us parts of two down town hospitals.

On the 9th of May we addressed another communication to the Board, stating the impracticability of homoeopathic physicians practising in allopathic hospitals, and repeating our request for a separate building.

As far as could be learned from the newspaper reports (for no direct answer was vouchsafed us) this memorial was simply ordered on file.

On the 5th or June, we once more addressed the Board, showing that in the “General Plan of Operations” submitted by Dr. Stephen Smith, Chief of Hospitals, as published in the papers of June 2d, we could see no reason why one or the six districts, into which he proposed to divide the city, should not be assigned to homoeopathic physicians, to be by them managed and controlled in accordance with said” General Plan.“

To this also we received no reply.

On the 15th of June, a letter was sent by us to the Board of Health, stating that we had addressed several communications to them at different times during the past two months, and asking whether it was their intention to favor us with a direct reply, or whether we might consider the newspaper reports of the doings of the Board as sufficient answer.

The Chairman of the Sanitary Committee, Dr. Stone, to whom this and all other previous communications of ours had been referred, did not vouchsafe us even then a written reply, although repeatedly urged to do so by some of the non-medical members of the Board, who had no fear of the New York Academy of Medicine before their eyes.

We were, therefore, denied the courtesy of a definite response; and although we had seen in the public prints that portions of two hospitals were recommended to be assigned to us, we were left completely in ignorance of the terms and requisite details or such arrangement. It was deemed best, consequently, to seek a personal interview with the Sanitary Committee; for in no other way did it seem possible to arrive at any understanding of what we were expected to do, or how we were to do it. Accordingly, one of our committee sought out Dr. Stone, Chairman of the Sanitary Committee, and in a long conversation on the subject elicited the following details of the proposed plan of operations:

That Homoeopathic physicians would be allowed to join in treating cholera patients, but could not be the chosers of the manner in which such treatment is to be conducted; that no change could or would be made in the organization already existing, but that we might come in under the same rules and regulations as other medical assistants; that an offer of part of the Five Points and Battery Hospitals had already been made to us through the medium or the public press; that we would have assigned to us, in certain wards in these hospitals, every alternate bed for the exhibition of our treatment, which beds would be filled in rotation by incoming sick. That a full and minute record should be kept in the hospital books of the condition of the patient at the time of his reception and during the progress of his disease, which record should be always open for the inspection of any of the other attending physicians, who would also have the right to place upon the record any correction or criticism which the case might suggest. This privilege to be common to all the physicians of the hospital in order to ensure accuracy of detail and of diagnosis, but not to extend to any criticism upon the treatment. That all prescriptions must be written out in full, giving the dose and strength of the remedy - which prescriptions must be filled up by the apothecary, who would be supplied with all drugs and preparations which any physician might order or suggest. But no medicines to be administered from pocket-cases or in any other way than by means of a written prescription and the regular apothecary.

Dr. Stone also stated that this matter had been discussed in full by the Sanitary Committee, and that no exceptions could be made to these rules, and that all physicians would be compelled to observe them in the cholera hospitals; and that no distinctive practice would be allowed for a moment in a separate hospital. On this last point the Sanitary Committee had fully resolved and were immovable.

His reasons why such a separate hospital for the exhibition of homoeopathic treatment could not be granted us, were briefly these: First, because homoeopathic physicians, as a class, were not so well educated and trained in the laws of diagnosis and pathology and, therefore, needed close watching and supervision, lest they should, through ignorance or otherwise, make false returns and, for instance, report cases as cured of cholera which never had been cholera.

And, second, because many of our number were in the habit of prescribing drugs add doses non-homoeopathic, and any good results accruing therefrom would thus be falsely credited to Homoeopathy.

To all which we answered, that no physician of our school possessed of any self-respect could for a moment accept an offer, which impugns our integrity and our intelligence at the very outset; that we had repeatedly proposed to take charge of a separate hospital, to be open at all hour of the day and nigh for the inspection of our records, of our patients and our treatment, by any person appointed by the Board of Health. That our proposal was not only perfectly fair, but free from all the objections and complications sure to arise in the practical workings of a plan, which had been tried repeatedly in European cities, and had always speedily failed, by reason of the jealousies and interferences and charges of unfairness which seem inevitable, when the competitors are brought into personal contact.

Such are the details of the offer of the Sanitary Committee of the Board of Health, as enunciated by its chairman. Though it is plausible in some points its spirit and intent are obvious. It cannot be entertained by us for a moment, because it denies our honesty and intelligence; and while it is hedged about with rules and restrictions to prevent us from deceiving, it fails to provide like safeguards against our being deceived. Why should we trust those who plainly say they cannot and will not trust us? What security have we, for instance, against partiality in the distribution of patients to the various beds, or against our medicines being tampered with, or against our patients being demoralized by insinuations that they are the unhappy victims of experimentation, or against a thousand other annoyances which can so easily be inflicted by careless or malicious subordinates, to say nothing of the possibility that we might be associated with physicians of the same stamp perchance as that Inspector up-town, who not long ago was summoned to a reported case of cholera, and, on entering the house, cursed the homoeopathic physician as a humbug and knave, and kicked over the medicine standing by the bedside of the patient!

If fair play should be guaranteed to either party, surely it ought to be to the minority, who are compelled to work in subordination and to trust all the general management to the honor and justice of the majority.

The experience of our European brethren will prove a useful guide. For instance, when the cholera ravaged Marseilles, in France, in the year 1848, Dr. Charge, a Homoeopath, was so very successful in its treatment, that he was decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor, and on the recurrence of the epidemic in 1854, was requested by the authorities to take charge of two wards in the public hospital. He did so, but in a few days resigned his appointment, and made a public statement of his reasons for so doing. Not only was there a great lack of flannels, clothing and other necessaries which had been promised him in abundance, but one attendant only was allowed him who fell sick on the first day and was not replaced; so that the homoeopathic physicians themselves had to perform all the drudgery belonging to the nurses in addition to their medical duties. Nor was this all. The worst cases only, many of them moribund at the time, were placed in his beds; so that his rates of mortality were enormously and most unfairly increased, and in self-defense he was speedily compelled to resign. Twenty-one out of twenty-six cases died; not everyone, as was publicly stated by Dr. Stone at a meeting or the Health Board - for we take it for granted it was to this Marseilles experiment he referred, when he spoke so disparagingly of the “trial at Naples.”

This “trial at Naples” took place as long ago as 1829, and not during a cholera epidemic, but in the general hospital. It was made by the express order or the king, when the success of Homoeopathy was first carrying confusion into the ranks of the old school. It was conducted in as impartial a manner as could be devised, the most vigorous rules being imposed on both parties to prevent the possibility of deception or complaints of unfairness. One of the regulations required that both parties should agree upon the admission of every patient, and that “patients afflicted with diseases which Allopathists consider incurable, should be admitted by preference.” A detail of the trial and of all the reports which were set afloat in Naples during its continuance of 155 days, we need not here recount. Several attempts were made by the old school physicians to break up the trial, but failed. At its close, the official report, published from the books by order of the king, showed that out of sixty-eight patients under homoeopathic treatment, fifty-two were cured, six were convalescent, and two had died. A state paper was then issued by the government, censuring in very severe terms the false reports and statements made by the old school physicians, and decreeing that “henceforth physicians should be free to follow any method of treatment they might choose.” Nor was this all; Drs. Marchessani and Alessi, two of the old school physicians appointed to watch this trial, wore by it converted to Homoeopathy, as was also Dr. des Guidi, who was a witness of the treatment.

This is an old story, but one which the Sanitary Committee seem to have forgotten. But now we stand on different ground; we claim our share of the public hospitals, not as a favor or as a test of the merits of our system, but as a right. Our success is an established fact, our practitioners in New York City and suburbs are numbered by hundreds and are rapidly increasing, and our clientage comprises nearly one-half of the entire wealth and intelligence of this metropolis. We maintain that the Sanitary Committee of the Board of Health can in no way be justified in allowing their professional prejudices to shut us out of all participation in the public hospitals. We demand, as a right, that so large a portion of our tax-payers should be fairly, represented in our medical institutions. We have passed through an ordeal lasting nearly half a century, and in spite of all prejudices and every form of ridicule and opposition, have steadily increased in popular estimation, have founded and supported, by individual enterprise, colleges, hospitals and dispensaries; and have even materially modified and improved the old school practice itself. In no disease has the value of our treatment been more satisfactorily shown, than in epidemic cholera, the statistics of which have been frequently published. We court a fair trial of our treatment, and are willing to stand or fall by the practical result. But we cannot, in all proper self-respect, take positions under a committee which arrogates to its school all the science and honesty of the profession and leaves us none. They deny our powers of diagnosis in cholera, and yet this very last spring a dispute arose between some of their most eminent men, members of this very Sanitary Committee included, as to whether certain deaths on Ward's Island last fall were produced by cholera or Bright's disease (see the conflicting newspaper articles by Drs. Post, Cram, Parker, Guleke and Sayre). Which of these two parties then shall watch us, to correct our diagnosis?

Again, this Sanitary Committee insist upon having us under strict surveillance lest we should cure our patients with medicines non-homoeopathic, or perchance even with their own drugs. Certainly they could not fear that we would attempt to beat them at their own weapons, to cure more by their own method than they could themselves. Who made them judges more than we, or what is homoeopathic and what is not? As long as we could show them a better and more certain way, why should they hesitate to try it, even if it were not, in their estimation purely homoeopathic. As to education, we yield not one whit. We claim to have superadded a practical knowledge of homoeopathic therapeutics to the ordinary course or medical study. For the great bulk of our practitioners are graduates of allopathic colleges, and therefore not altogether uninformed in diagnosis and the science of medicine. At any rate, they themselves have endorsed our credentials, and recommended us to the public as competent and trustworthy physicians.

In a word, we claim for ourselves equal intelligence, education, honesty of purpose and sincerity or conviction. All we ask is a fair field for the exhibition of our method of cure and no favor. We can only repeat our offer, already thrice-made, to take charge of a hospital in any epidemic that may occur; said hospital to be under our own administration and management, subject only to the supreme control of the Board of Health, and to be open at all hours for inspection or its records, its prescriptions or its patients, by any persons duly appointed for that purpose. From a fair competition we shrink not, but seek it in sincerity, and by its results are content to abide.

B. F. Bowers, Carroll Dunham, E. M. Kellogg, Henry M. Smith, T. F. Allen, Special Committee on Cholera, of the New York Co., Homoeopathic Medical Society.
A. Cooke Hull, P. P. Wells, S. Cullen Hanford, Albert Wright, E. T. Richardson, Special Committee on Cholera, of the Kings Co., Homoeopathic Medical Society.
L. W. Flagg, T. C. Fanning, H. C. Jones Special Committee on Cholera, of the Westchester Co., Homoeopathic Medical Society.


Source: The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 06 No. 11-12, 1866, pages 467-472
Description: Homoeopathy and the Board of Health
Author: Ahomeo06
Year: 1866
Editing: errors only; interlinks; formatting
Attribution: Legatum Homeopathicum
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