ON A NEW AND LAMENTABLE FORM OF HYSTERIA

M HALL
1850 The Lancet  
660 (if the effects of medicines but by experiments on persons in health; else, how would he know that the effects of any particular substance are similar to disease; since the experiment, if made during disease, would leave it vague whether the morbid effects were due to the drug or the disease. Then, unless the modes of computation or measurement in regard to homoeopathic medicines are opposed to all others, and are of a nature mysterious and miraculous, it follows, that if one, two, or three
more » ... one, two, or three globules of a given substance cause symptoms resembling inflammation, fifty or 100 globules of the same substance will excite these symptoms in a higher degree. Then give us that dose. The writer offers, either in health or when he chances to suffer from sickness, or in any other circumstances, to take a thousand doses at once of any substance whatever of the ordinary infinitesimal dilutions. He stipulates only to have two allopathic practitioners to superintend the effect, in order that they may prove, as he doubts not they will easily do, that any phenomena (favourable or the reverse) which may follow, are explicable on grounds altogether distinct from the infinitesimal dose; unless, indeed, this is taken in so large a quantity as to act on ordinary allopathic principles; which, however, of medicines infinitesimally diluted, many thousand doses ought not to do. We repeat our offer. We invite homoeopathists, by any infinitesimal use of their medicines that pleases them, to get up in us a pleurisy, pneumonia, peritonitis, or fever. For the interests of art and knowledge, and for the sake of testing the efficacy of infinitesimal doses, we are willing to incur the risk. But candour compels us, at the same time, to avow that we consider we make the offer with the most perfect safety ! Here, then, is a remarkable difference between the two i systems. The allopathist at will, and irrespective of the volition of the patient, can by his doses, purge, or cause to vomit, or to perspire, or to void urine in large quantities-can, in short, act, at his pleasure, on important organs and functionsthe bowels, stomach, skin, kidney, &c. We can stimulate by quinine, or depress by antimony. But the writer, and those who think with him, absotutelg defy 7ion'tceol,?athists, when using only bonc2,fide infinitesimal doses, to produce the smallest effect on them, either in health or disease. In other words, we assert that the action of infinitesimal doses is InlJoely imaginary, and is all explicable on the ground of influencing the imagination of persons, who are predisposed by faith in the system, and whose cases do not require more active treatment. Can we possibly offer a fairer issue than this ? Yet absurd as the infinitesimal doctrine is, to it (we verily believe) homoeopathy chiefly owes what popularity it enjoys. Did this system not differ from the Hippocratic in the marvellous minuteness of its doses, but merely in the principle on which medicines are administered, it would probably never have obtained any or much attention; for the curiosity of the public, more especially the morbid curiosity of hypochondriac men and nervous women, would not have been stimulated. Whether the black draught he was about to swallow was to act on homceopathic or allopathic principles, a patient would not have cared one straw about; but when he is not only spared the black draught, but required merely to swallow a powder smaller than the smallest pinch of snuff, or to take a teaspoonful of limpid, tasteless, and colourless water,-when, moreover, he is told that in, these he imbibes only a decillionth part of the active agent, his palate and his faculty of wonder are conjointly interested in the miraculous circumstance! I need not add what every man knows, that, besides men like Lords Essex and Robert Grosvenor, there are multitudes of women (more excusable, indeed) who prefer whatever taxes their faith, stimulates their imagination, excites, but never satisfies their curiosity, and exceeds their comprehension, to aught their minds could fathom ! We ought not, however, to quit the subject of infinitesimal doses without urging a suggestion on all our allopathic brethren. It is known that two or three years ago, one of the most notorious of the metropolitan homoeopathic practitioners was detected in administering to a delicate female patient, as infinitesimal medicine, a dose of the chloride of mercury, such as few allopathists would in the same circumstances order. We apprehend that this mendacious method is far from rare. It were easy for an homaeop'1thist to administer an allopathic dose of arsenic, corrosive sublimate, strychnine, aconitine, morphine, and other powerful medicines, as an infinitesmal one. And this, as we have just said, we doubt not is often done. We therefore recommend our brother practitioners to embrace any opportunities, consistent with gentlemanly dealing, of obtaining specimens of homceopathic medicines, from friends or pafiepts who haye been under that treatment, and to analyze the same. We suspect that some curious disclosures will be the result. Our total scepticism, as to any effect whatever from infinitesimal doses, necessarily obliges us to the belief, that in every case in which any benefit does result from a medicine ostensibly infinitesimal, a deception is practised; the dose not being, in diminutiveness, what it is professed to be. And hence will arise a difficulty to allopathists in practically confuting the system of their opponents, by pointing to its inefficiency; since the treatment of the latter will be, and we doubt not in many cases now is, allopathic, under the colours of homaeopathy ! We do not hesitate to avow, that we consider as the most noble as well as the most perfect and safe of all cures, to be that which is effected by natural means only, by an enlightened and masterly application of physiology; and we even think it might be, with less sophistry and paradox than is employed on many occasions, maintained, that the means just referred to are the only ones for which we have clear, express, direct, and indisputable warrant. The line of argument, however, necessary to establish even the probability of this, would be much tootranscendental for the pages of a practical medical journal. Besides, a contrary view might be also plausibly maintained, and on another tack of reasoning from the transcendental one just adverted to, the use of medicine might be shown to be the result of a sort of secondary instinct. These are grand and exciting inquiries, for the management of which the time we live in is not prepared. With all our vanity and imagined, progress we are a gross age. The finest departments of knowledge and social humanity are neither understood nor regarded by us, or are named only to be derided and execrated. But, returning from this digression, and leaving open the questions above referred to, we shall simply remark, that, whether rightly or not, the use of medicine is likely to be long a habit of the race. And of the two medical sects discoursed of in this paper, homoeopathists and allopathists, we are well convinced that the latter will survive, will regain all the advantages it may lose, and will number the apparently most brilliant cures. The tables will be again turned. In order to prove this, let us for a moment imagine that homceopathy, with its inert and slow treatment, was universally established, and that the very name and memory of allo-, pathy had died out of the world. Let us next imagine that amid this state of things an allopathist appeared, armed with opium, mercury, antimony, nitrate of potass, &c., and administering them in allopathic doses; giving this man, who had . been for weeks sleepless, a night of profound repose, by a ' single pill (opium); sending, by the use of a single small L powder (calomel), that other man, who had been all his life . constipated, to his water-closet, in a state of unprecedented: alvine urgency and excitement; by a powder, equally minute, : (tartrate of antimony) producing a vomitive cataract from . the stomach of that child, who had over-eaten itself with I acerb plums, and ached in its small abdomen; causing a fourth l person (a dysuric patient), by a powder not large (nitrate of r potass), to charge his chamber utensil with a more brimming V supply than the joyful man had ever impinged into it before! Why, the whole world would go mad about this allopathist! , He would be called a miracle-worker. Man and woman l would flock all wildly after him. The tail of his coat, if . coats should then be worn, would be kissed by beseeching L and by thankful lips. Homoeopathy would be forgotten, or J laughed at as the wretched dawdling of old women; and F nothing would be talked or thought of but the apparition of 3 this wonderful new medical demi-god ! Norfolk Terrace, Westbourne Grove, West. ) .__________' .
doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(02)89511-3 fatcat:owl357jk75ecree6coqpkiillm