To make it mean a pretender to knowledge and skill that one does not possess makes it cover the entire healing profession, regular and irregular, from Hippocrates to the present. However well meaning and well-educated in the lore of the time were those men of the not-so-distant past who sought to cure disease by blood-letting, for example. they were mere pretenders--charlatans. There has never been a time in the history of medicine when the practitioners of the many and various schools of medicine that have arisen and flourished have not pretended to greater knowledge and skill than they possessed. The same fact is true of the members of the various schools of so-called healing that now flourish.
For the medical man to brand as quacks all members of all schools of healing other than his own may be good propaganda, but it does not make good sense. For the givers of quacksalber to brand all who refuse to administer this poison as quacksalbers is the height of the ridiculous. If the brand belongs to anybody, it belongs to the members of the "regular," the self-styled scientific or what was formerly known as the allopathic school of drugging (poisoning), and to no other. Let them accept their proper brand and cease trying to transfer it to others.
We would define a charlatan as one who seeks to do or to make others believe that he can do by illegitimate or unlawful means or unwise methods, that which can only be done by means which are obviously natural and in harmony with law. What have physicians from Hippocrates to the present been other than a body of pretenders, seeking to do with unnatural and anti-vital means, that which can be done only by means that have a normal relation to life? They have been ignorant of physiology, pathology and etiology. Was it not the grossest kind of ignorance that caused them for centuries to bleed their victims? However well-meaning they may have been, they were, nonetheless, charlatans.
In any profession, he is a charlatan who sets up pretensions which are not fortified by knowledge and we seriously assert that in no profession is there to be found a greater proportion of its members who are ignorant of the fundamental principles that underlie or should underlie the care of the sick, than are to be found in the medical profession.
The continuous outcry of physicians against what they delight to stigmatize as quackery is an unconscious acknowledgement, either of their own inferiority, which they sense all too keenly, or of the monopoly they are so desirous of enjoying in their field. A physician who complains of the quack in his neighborhood is voicing his own feeling of inferiority or his desire for monopoly.
Men who asserted that it is the duty of everyone to study the laws and principles of our animal existence and to dilligently live according to these laws were denounced as quacks by Tully in his Materia Medica and Therapeutics, published shortly after the middle of the last century. He said that this set of "quacks" insist that "all disease" is the "natural and inevitable consequence of living contrary to nature," and that they teach that "the sickness which prevails" everywhere "may be directly traced to the violation of the great laws which govern our present mode of existence." From this he proceeded to write all he could to prejudice the medical student against the teachings of the Hygienists, even going to the extent of distorting and falsifying much of what they did teach. He set the pattern that has been unthinkingly followed by the medical profession from that day to this.
It is a bit amusing to read in the various publications--daily, weekly and monthly--of today of the continual "ding dong, sing song, often loud, but never long," attacks upon what is described as wide-spread quackery. It is confessed that "quackery" is alarmingly prevalent and constantly gaining on the regular profession of medicine. But why this is true is amazingly perplexing. Why do so many millions of people, many of them of more than average intelligence and many of them highly educated, turn to "quackery" when scientific medicine offers them so much? Is it because scientific medicine is not fulfilling its promises? Do people turn elsewhere for succour when the regular traffic in cures fails them? Is it possible that the best remedy for "quackery" is for medical men to cure their patients?
It is altogether too easy to credit the wide-spread patronage of "quackery" to gullibility and ignorance. Before the profession stresses these qualities of the layman, they should take a closer look at their own ignorance and gullibility. Are they not guilty of employing and even promoting a succession of new drugs, most of which, after but a brief trail, are discarded? Before they stressed so much the alleged dangers of "quackery," would it not be well for them to take stock of the dangers of their own practices--the dangerous side effects of their drugs, the mounting incidence of iatrogenic disease, the number of deaths from "allergic reactions" to drugs, the deaths from operations, etc.?
The pitiful witlings of the drugging school may continue to babble about quackery while they continue to routinely dose their victims with poisons and their chief propagandists may sharpen their pens to utter smart things about the ignorance of the "quacks," but the public will draw their own inferences from what they observe and experience. If the profession will come out into the open and discuss their own quackery and cease "barking behind the fence," they will do the public a genuine service. For, it is evident that the quackery within the profession is the parent of the quackery outside the profession.