« ZurückWeiter »
in the healing art, besides the great numbers, in Europe, who perish for the want of bread and the comforts and necessaries of life, have co-operated to make the healing power and beneficial influences of the medical profession less diffused, felt, and appreciated. But in Natchez, situated in the most favored spot of the most favored land, where plenty and abundance abound, where every inhabitant, bond or free, rich or poor, young or old, has all the solid comforts and necessaries of life at all times at command, the benefits and blessings of the science of medicine were dispersed and diffused throughout her whole population, until the subtle wiles of crafty and designing empirics and pretended reformers, impaired the confidence of the public in the regular medical profession. Leaning with confidence on the arm of science, the citizens of Natchez passed through two yellow fevers, an epidemic cholera, whooping-cough, measles, scarlet fever and small pox, besides the
, other diseases incident to the climate, and in ten years a fewer number of them perished, in proportion to the population, than in any other town or city from which we have any authentic results. The good effects of confidence in the medical profession, and the benefits to be derived from timely application for medical advice, were clearly demonstrated during the epidemic cholera, which visited this city in May and June of 1833. While in Paris, and many other cities, the ignorant inhabitants, goaded and worked upon by designing empirics, and the venders and fabricators of nostrums, and secret medicines, were accusing the physicians of having poisoned them, consequently refusing and disdaining medical aid and dying by thousands, the good people of Natchez were every where seeking timely medical assistance. The consequence was, that the epidemic, out of the whole population of Natchez in two months, May and June, including strangers, and negroes
brought here for sale, only carried off forty-three individuals. Whereas nearly this number died in a single day in many villages and towns of no greater population, wherever the inhabitants abandoned their physicians and looked to empiricism and to nostrums for safety.
I have thus attempted to show Natchez trusting in and wisely protecting science during the long period of ten years, through all this long lapse of years science being triumphant, amidst circumstances calculated to desolate and depopulate any other city. But it is now my task to review the picture and to exhibit Natchez during a period of four years and nine months—a period, with the exception of three months in 1837, remarkable for its health and entire exemption from epidemic diseases. I will present her to the reader-not leaning upon the arm of science-not confiding exclusively to it-not trusting in it-not protecting it by wise legislation, but letting it
go, to follow after ignorant, presuming and fanatical empirics, and seeking safety in the patent nostrums of ignorance and fraud. Before the termination of 1833 the laws of Mississippi, which protected the science of Medicine and guarded the people against ignorant presumers and pretended reformers, were virtually annulled. By the first of January 1834 a host of empirics had made their way into our city, and commenced in good earnest, what they called a reformation in medicine. They first began their operations by using every artifice to destroy the confidence of the public, in the virtue of those remedies and means, which the accumulated experience of
has found to be the most effectual in the treatment of a large class of diseases—particularly such as occur in warm climates. They used great and unwearied exertions, not only to prejudice the public against most of the medicines which physicians employed, calling them poisons, but they endeavored to destroy public confidence in the physicians themselves and to bring contempt and disrepute upon the regular exercise of the medical art. So great was their zeal, they succeeded in weakening public confidence in the medical profession in a greater degree than could have been expected in-so intelligent a community. Some good citizens of Natchez and its vicinity they entirely alienated from it. In some instances, they even succeeded in turning those, who owed their lives to the scientific practice of medicine, altogether against it. The natural effect of debility and old age were artfully attributed to the influence of calomel and the lancet. Deaths, which no human means could avert, and which must occur while man is mortal, were said to have been occasioned by poisonous drugs. The more numerous cases, which got sound and well under the use of the very same drugs, were overlooked. Nothing was likewise said of the many remediable cases which proved fatal under the empirical practice—but the welkin was made to ring with every case which got well under it, or which recovered in spite of it.
I now come to apply statistical medicine to that portion of time which has elapsed, since half a dozen or more empirics have located themselves in Natchez to carry out, what they call, 6
a reform in medicine." In other words, I am now about to test the pretended reformation in medicine by the unerring results of time and truth.
But first I propose to follow up the practice of the regular physicians. A considerable part of the population, generally embracing the more intelligent citizens, were not seduced by the empirics, but continued to employ as formerly, the regular physicians. During the last four years and nine months, omitting the deaths which occurred during the period of the epidemic of 1837, the regular physicians lost 523 patients.
Admitting that the population of Natchez, since the 1st of January 1834, has been double what it was during the ten years preceding 1834, the number of patients which have died under the care of physicians, during a period of four years and six months, would, if the population has actually doubled itself, be 566; provided their practice was neither more nor less successful than the practice of the physicians of the ten years preceding 1834. If the epidemic be excluded, fewer persons have died since the 1st of January 1834, under the treatment of regular physicians, than did previously. But if the epidemic of 1837 be included in the estimate, 84 more persons have died under the regular physicians, in the last four years and nine months, than the proportional number of deaths which occurred in the practice of the physicians who preceded them. Thus, if the physicians, during a period of ten years in a population of 3000, lost 641 patients, how many, in the same ratio, would die in a population of 6000 in four years and nine months? The relative proportion would be 609. But 693 is the number reported. But in the ten years from 1823 to 1834, besides the 641 patients reported by physicians, there are 337 unreported cases, or cases reported by persons not belonging to the profession. These 337 unre. ported cases were partly composed of strangers brought here in a dying state from New Orleans; partly of accidental deaths; partly of still born children; partly of intemperate and houseless strangers; partly of persons who refused medical advice, and partly of omissions in the attending physicians to report all the deaths which occurred in their practice. If a population of 3000, in ten years, gives 337 unreported cases, how many unreported cases would a population of 6000 give in four years and nine months. The number would be 320. But the actual number of unreported cases of the last four
years and nine months, as proved by the sexton's books, is 622. If 320 be taken from 622 there will remain 302. Therefore, 302 individuals in the last four years and nine months, have either been directly sacrificed on the smoking altars of steam, or had their confidence in the medical profession so much impaired by designing empirics as to forego the advantages of science, and die of remediable diseases. Lest it be supposed that the great excess of unreported cases occurred during the epidemic of 1837, I have consulted the register kept by the sexton, and find that the whole number of unreported deaths, during August, September and October 1837, embracing the whole period of the epidemic, is only 70. By deducting 70 from 302 there remain 232 more unreported deaths in four years and six months (omitting three months for the epidemic,) than occurred during the whole period of the preceding ten years. The total number of deaths, which occurred in ten years, from 1823 to 1834, is 978. If therefore a population of 3000, in ten years, lose 978, how many deaths would occur in a population of 6000 in four years and nine months? The total number should be 929. But the actual number of deaths recorded in the sexton's books, the last four years and nine months, since the pretended reformation in medicine commenced, is 1315. The reformation, therefore, has reformed, in four years and nine months, no less than 386 individuals out of existence. But to put the matter in a plainer light—the average annual mortality of Natchez since empirics have divided the practice with the regular physicians, is no less than one death per annum in every 21.7-10 of the inhabitants: but to estimate the mortality on the actual population of 1837, when Natchez contained its highest population, 6000, it would be, 1 in 22.2; but in the ten years preceding this mixture of empiricism with the regular practice only one in