Honesty Imperative

A physician who fully appreciates the influence exerted by suggestion upon the mind, and the influence exerted by the mind over the physiological processes of the body, will habitually give a more favorable prognosis than the one who does not appreciate the potency of such measures.

Every physician who has successfully practiced medicine for a few years has observed instances where the family of a sick member, upon becoming aware of the attending physician's grave prognosis, has insisted upon having a consultant, who, upon his advent in the sick-room, has taken a more hopeful view of the patient's chances for recovery, and at once a marked improvement has begun, which has not abated until complete restoration to health has been secured.

A medical man in the West related this experience: He was once called to see an Indian chief, seriously ill with an acute double lobar pneumonia, with high fever and severe pain. After a careful examination he frankly and honestly made it known to the family of the sick warrior that in his opinion he could not get well and would have to die. The brave old chief did not so easily take his suggestion to die, and he refused to accept the physician's services, continuing to take a well-known Indian remedy to render him less conscious of his suffering, and, while surrounded by weird noises and dances, and other savage ceremonies, the recuperative powers of the cells of his organism were allowed to assert themselves, and he made a safe recovery.

To this day that tribe of Indians refuses to accept the services of physicians, having had the strong conviction implanted that the white man's medicine is unreliable.

A gentleman of my acquaintance was sick for many months with chronic interstitial nephritis, probably of alcoholic origin, and a competent pathologist found large quantities of tube casts in his urine, which bore a large percentage of albumin, and with his report gave his opinion that the prognosis was grave. His attending physician and also a consultant gave him no encouragement. He was persuaded to take an infusion of some kind prepared by an illiterate farmer who was strongly convinced that this would effect a cure.

His physicians allowed the harmless experiment, to satisfy his patient, who was eager to try anything that offered a possibility of recovery. With every dose of the infusion, however, he became more influenced by the farmer's conviction of his recovery, and he began to improve from the time he commenced the remedy until within a year was able to attend to business. All cases of degenerative kidney disease are not necessarily fatal, but he was steadily growing weaker all the while until he began the farmer's prescription, which probably benefited him more through its psychic influence than otherwise.

I was called some years ago in consultation to see a little boy ten years of age, possibly infected with malaria at first, but he also had a subacute gastroenterocolitis. He had been sick for nearly two weeks, was still having frequent watery, mucous discharges from his bowels, and had for thirty-six hours vomited everything taken into his stomach. He had a pulse of 150; temperature, 100.5° F.; pale, weak, and anemic. His physician had given him the standard medicinal remedies, as recommended by our best authorities on children's diseases, and the child was constantly growing weaker. He had notified the family that the outlook was grave, and was quite willing to adopt any suggestions that I might offer.

I indorsed all his measures, but suggested that they be discontinued on the grounds that the results did not warrant their further use. He was anxious for me to share the responsibility of the situation, and readily consented that only 1/30 grain of calomel be given every hour while the patient was awake.

Sitting by the bedside, I dipped my fingers into a bowl of ice water and began to gently stroke the little sufferer's forehead. I was alone with him at the time, while the attending physician was out of the room with his mother, giving orders for the day. By the time they returned to the sick-room I had suggested the patient into a refreshing sleep, and had also given him other suggestions appropriate to his condition. That he should be asleep was somewhat of a surprise to his mother, whose anxiety and nervousness had served to keep him from doing as well as he would possibly have done had she been more self-composed.

"Will you do me the favor, Mrs. Blank, to take that bowl away from the bedside, and remove all towels from the bed also?" I asked.

"Why, Doctor, the child would vomit all over his bed and also on my floor," responded she.

"Madam, take the bowl away, and cover your floor and his bed with newspapers, and, if he vomits one time, put them back. He will rest well today and sleep most of the time. You will have to awaken him to give the tablets, but that will quiet his stomach and keep him from vomiting again. Keep the room absolutely quiet, allowing no conversation at all to disturb him. Allow him to drink all the water he wishes when you give the tablet, to quiet his stomach and make him sleep. He will want some chicken and barley broth tomorrow, and, if Doctor Blank says so, I think he will enjoy it."

The mother looked queer, but removed the bowl and towels. I also requested her to tell him to go to sleep when she gave the tablets.

The little patient rested well that night, and when we returned the next day his face brightened and he smiled as he bade us good-morning.

"Oh, he is so much better," exclaimed his mother, "and he is begging for something to eat." He improved every day and went on to recovery in due time.

Every word spoken by me to that mother while the child was asleep was a suggestion, an indirect suggestion, which is always the most powerful kind.

Even a child four years old appreciates sense impressions, or suggestions made upon his brain cortex, far more than is realized by people and physicians in general. A little boy of my knowledge, four years of age, was sick with an acute capillary bronchitis, and his father, who was a physician, felt very much concerned about his condition.