Notwithstanding the darkness, uncertainty and doubt in which medical science is involved--its incapability of answering the desired object of such a science; if its remedial agents were innocent, there would be much less occasion for a reform than there now is. Should we see a blind man armed with a pistol, shooting into a group composed of friends and enemies, should we not suppose he would be as likely to kill his friends as enemies? Equally as liable is the physician, armed with deadly poison, administered without any certain criterion to guide him in their use, to kill nature instead of disease, or kill more than he cures.
The most common remedies used by the faculty are, mercury in some of its forms, antimony, opium, bleeding, and blistering.
Mercury, or the ore which contains it, abounds in China, Hungary, Spain, France, and South America; and of all the metals used as a medicine, is the most extensively used--there being scarcely a disease against which some of its preparations are not exhibited.
Calomel, a preparation of mercury, is said to be the Sampson of the Materia Medica, and, as another has expressed, has destroyed more Americans than Sampson did of the Philistines.
Dr. Powell, formerly professor in the Medical College at Burlington, Vt., in a letter to Dr. Wright of Montpelier, says, "It is to be hoped the time is not far distant, when all deleterious poisons will be struck from our Materia Medica. It is my opinion, calomel or mercury has made far more disease since it has been so universally exhibited, than all the epidemics of the country. It is more than ten years since I have administered a dose of it, although I have been daily in the practice of physic, and I am sure I have been more successful in practice than when I made use of it. The last dose I had in the house, I gave to some rats, and it as radically killed them as arsenic."
Dr. Powell, having administered calomel for many years, could not have been mistaken in regard to its effects.
Dr. Chapman, Professor in the University of Pennsylvania, after speaking of the extravagant use of calomel at the South, says, "He who for an ordinary cause resigns the fate of his patient to mercury, is a vile enemy to the sick; and if he is tolerably popular, will, in one successful season, have paved the way for the business of life, for he has enough to do ever afterwards, to stop the mercurial breach of the constitutions of his dilapidated patients."
Dr. Graham, of the University of Glasgow, says, "We have often had every benevolent feeling of our mind called into painful exercise, upon viewing patients, already exhausted by protracted illness, groaning under accumulated miseries of an active course of mercury, and by this forever deprived of perfect restoration; a barbarous practice, the inconsistency, folly and injury of which no words can sufficiently describe."
Dr. Robertson, of Cincinnati, says in his lectures, "It is astonishing, and will remain an astonishment to future generations, that the very rankest poisons are the greatest remedies now in use in the world, and have been for the last fifty years past. It would be a melancholy tale, could it be told of the millions who have perished through this practice."
Prof. Waterhouse says, "When calomel is pushed to a salivation, it delipidates, if we may so speak, or dissolves the human fluids, all of which are made of globules or round particles, on the crasis of which depend the vital energy of our bodies, and of course our health and vigor. After the hazardous process of salivation, the physician may, perhaps, be able to say, Now I have so far changed the morbid state of the patient, that his disease is conquered, and entirely overcome by the powerful operation of the mercury. But then in what condition does he find the sufferer ? His teeth are loosened, his joints are weakened, his healthy countenance is impaired, his voice is more feeble, and he is more susceptible of cold, and a damp state of the weather. His original disorder is, to be sure, overcome, but it is paying a great price for it. Secret history conceals from public notice in numerable victims of this sort."
Prof. Barton, of the Medical College of Louisiana, says of the tomato, "I freely wish it success, after having witnessed, for sixteen years, the horrible ravages committed by calomel."
The administration of calomel, to be safe, depends on circumstances beyond the knowledge of the prescriber; therefore, he who administers a dose of calomel, under any circumstance, strikes a blow in the dark, the result of which will be exhibited too late to be remedied.
In spite of the efforts of the medical faculty to keep from the people a knowledge of the effects of mercury upon the human system, which effects they had been accustomed to attribute to a change in the disease; some of their number, having too much benevolence longer to administer the disease-creating poison, have laid before the astonished calomel-eater the legitimate results of its use; leading him to exclaim, Is it so ? that I have been so long duped by pretended science--so long swallowing down that which has been destroying my constitution, leaving me as I now find myself, but a wreck of the man I once was ! Is it so ? that man is so depraved, or so blinded as to deal out to his fellow-man deadly poisons, to increase his disease and suffering, when his punishment for the transgression of the laws of nature is already greater than he can bear ? These facts, coming to the knowledge of the people, have led many to reject those physicians who give calomel or mercury; physicians, therefore, find it for their interest to deny that they use it except in extreme cases. But if, from this moment, the use of calomel should be entirely abandoned, the suffering that must necessarily follow the use of what has been already administered will be incalculable.
Dr. Cox, a member of the medical faculty of Cincinnati, who has recently renounced the old school practice, thus writes in a communication to the editor of the Medical Reformer: "I could enumerate at least fifty cases of poison and death by Calomel, that occurred in the practice of physicians who were practicing in the region of country where I practiced for the last seven years previous to my coming to the city, many of whom were sent to their graves mutilated, disfigured, and partially decomposed before death released them from their sufferings." Suppose each physician of the thousands who are practicing in the United States after the old school routine of giving calomel, were to hand a list of the cases of death produced by that mineral poison, that occurred within his knowledge and region of labor, what a stupendous and alarming amount of mortality it would make ! In view of these facts, Dr. Cox comes to the following conclusion, and how could an honest man have come to a different conclusion ? "Lest I should farther give countenance to a species of legal and wholesale murder by the use of it, I hereby notify my friends, that from this 22d day of November, A. D. 1844, I forthwith and forever relinquish the use of mercury, in any of its preparations, as a medical agent." He says he has found the simple plants of nature's garden far more safe and efficacious than mercury; he therefore goes for a reform in the practice of medicine, and hopes the time is not far distant when it will be an offense against the statute law, as well as the moral and physical, to administer mercury as remedial agent. There are, no doubt, thousands of other physicians, who are constantly prompted by an enlightened conscience to abandon the use of poisons, and declare to the world that there is mischief in them. Even so mote it be.