" 'Allopathy be blow'd,' said Jeff Hall, who was present when I asked the old man; 'it isn't against the laws of God, anyhow, and, for one, I think God knows full as well, to say the least, as any allopath, or all of 'em put together; and no doctor, while I have my senses, shall choke me, or any of my family, to death--kill or no kill, I'll die in the same kind of shape, and not lie and loll out my tongue like a blown blood-hound, as folks have to do, in these diggins, who have the misfortune to be sick. See if I do.'
"The child above alluded to lived three days after the doctor gave it permission to drink cold water; and so much did it revive, that the friends all thought it was going to get well; but, alas, the day was gone by--it was like watering a tree after the sap had dried up; he died by inches, and the last thing he did was to attempt to swallow 'some more cold water!' "
Here is a recognition that this child died of dehydration. It is probable that had water been given days earlier, certainly if it had been given from the outset, he would have recovered. Many must have been the deaths from dehydration under this old practice, which had the sanction of religion, under the stupid notion of universal human depravity. Kittredge says that when a child became ill, every old woman in the neighborhood had the privilege of pouring down the throat of the child whatever she pleased--"poison stuff that sheep and cattle knew too much to eat." Then, two or three physicians would be called and they would come and put down the "pothecary stuff" which was "ten times more poison than the herbs . . . denying them even a little water to drink."
During the time when it was standard medical practice to deny water to the acutely sick patient, it was a common thing, when a council of physicians had concluded that the patient was going to die, that they had exhausted their skill and their means of cure, that there was nothing more to do and no longer any hope for them to continue to peremptorily refuse the patient a single drop of water. They were deaf to his cry: "Water! Give me water!"
Some friend or neighbor, left a short time alone with the patient, made desperate by his sufferings and his pleadings, might place water within his reach, often a large pitcher filled with cool, clear water, which he would swallow in one long, delicious draught. Such thirst cared not for the threatened perdition; one such treat of sparkling cool water was worth more to the patient than the whole of life.
Of course, the attendant dreaded the consequences. He would steal softly to the bedside of the sick man, the occupant being quiet and still, to see if he had died, only to find him sleeping peacefully, perhaps with big drops of sweat standing on his brow. He quickly called the friends and relatives of the patient, while the physician was sent for post-haste. The physician would say that "the crisis has passed," a "change has taken place for the better and the patient will recover;" but he would deny water to the next sick man, woman or child that he cared for.
A vital need of life had been supplied, as it had long been demanded, and the patient responded to the gentle influence of this Hygienic need as the flowers respond to spring showers. Large numbers of people recovered in just this way, after their physician or a consultation of physicians had said that recovery was no longer possible. Strange! that it should happen so often without opening the eyes of physicians! Strange! that the practice of denying water to fever patients was not discontinued until Hygienists and hydropaths forced its discontinuance!
Harriet Austin thus recounts a case of this kind which was that of a friend of hers. He was in a hotel among strangers. She says: "He knew he was expected to die. He was tormented with thirst day and night, and not a drop of water could he obtain. To aggravate his suffering, he constantly heard running a stream of water at the corner of the house. He watched his opportunity and crawled out of bed, down the stairs, round the house, till he found a large watering trough into which the water was falling. Into this he managed to get, and there he lay and drank all he wanted. The panic was terrible when he was discovered. He was placed in bed, clothes heaped upon him and a messenger sent in haste to bring the doctor to see him die. Before he arrived, however, he was sleeping sweetly, and from that moment he recovered."
Strange! isn't it, that had this patient stolen to the medicine cabinet and taken a dose of some forbidden drug and recovered, the physicians of the neighborhood would have gotten together to discuss the possible curative virtues of the drug in such a case, but did not come together, upon hearing of this recovery, to discuss the possible need of the fever patient for water! The world would have heard of the wonderful cure wrought by the drug; the world was not appraised of the office of water in enabling this patient to restore his health. Physicians continued to forbid water to their fever patients.
The recuperative and remedial effects of supplying the living organism with the normal needs of life, in keeping with its current need and power to use, is too simple for the scientific mind to comprehend. It is even too simple for the lay mind to grasp. We are so determined to have something mysterious and incomprehensible that we refuse to consider the simple and necessary requirements of life. The healthy body needs and can use water, so, also, can the sick body; but we prefer poisons for the sick.
There arose groups of people who called themselves Grahamites, physiological reformers, Hygienists, orthopathists, hydropaths, etc., who boldly affirmed that God or nature or whoever was responsible for man's existence, knew better than the most learned physician what drink was best for man, sick or well, and that all the cold water demanded by thirst will not harm a fever patient. It was due almost entirely to the work of these people that the medical profession ultimately consented to let their fever patients have water to drink.
Life speaks most emphatically through its organizations. Its instincts are more reliable guides than reason. The medical system insisted upon repressing the instincts of their patients--it denied its victims water to drink and air to breathe, fed them on slops and drugged them against the most emphatic protests of nature or instinct.
This was a time when the sick were denied the benefits of fresh air. Physicians would give strict orders to keep the room closed and to keep the air from the room. If it were necessary to enter the room, the door had to be opened as little as possible and closed quickly. The weather may have been hot, the patient may have had a high fever, the room may have reeked with the odors from the patient--it was still necessary to keep the room closed. No breath of fresh air was to be admitted. Patients were made to struggle in the confined air of their sick chambers. It would be impossible to estimate the number of deaths that were caused by this denial of fresh air.