The Doctors and the Laity [excerpt]
[ . . . ] let us briefly consider
the object lesson lately forced upon the attention of the so-called
civilized world by the act of Leon Czolgosz at Buffalo, New York.
In a recent editorial, the writer of these lines said that William
McKinley “was killed by Czolgosz and the medical doctors.” A little
explanation is necessary to right understanding of this statement.
In the first place it would be well
to say that our modern institutions, medical, political, religious,
etc., are based largely upon an artificial division of mankind into
two general classes, the doctors or professionals on the one hand
and the laity or non-professionals on the other. The doctors are
of three kinds mainly—doctors of medicine, doctors of law (civil
law) and doctors of divinity, otherwise called theology.
Each of these classes or divisions
of doctors have interests in common, and these interests are more
or less antagonistic to the interests, the welfare, of the laity
or non-professional masses. Take for example the medical doctors.
The interest, the welfare, of the layman is, first of all, good
health. But if everybody were well the medical doctor must starve.
Said an old man to his nephew just graduated from a medical college:
“Tell me the truth, Bob, once in your
life—if you could have your wish, would you choose to have everybody
well this coming summer, or would you prefer what is called a sickly
“Honestly then, Uncle, since you put
it that way, while it seems hard to say it you will find your answer
in the Lord’s prayer—‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ In order
that the physician may have bread somebody must be sick!”
In like manner the lawyer and the
judge of civil law. It is to the interest of the layman that there
should be no quarrels, no thefts, no murders nor crimes of any sort.
But where would the lawyer get his fees or the judge his salary
if there were no litigation?
So also of the doctor of divinity.
It is to the interest of the layman that there should be no sins,
no vices, no wickedness and no misery consequent upon these; but
who would be willing to pay the salary of the “minister” if there
were no sinners—no drunkards, no gamblers, no prostitutes, no liars,
no swearers, etc[.]? In order that the doctor of souls should have
bread there must be sinners—souls that need physic.
* * *
Such being the natural antagonism
between the interests of the doctors, the professionals, and the
interests of the laymen, the common masses, it is to be expected
that the first care of the doctor is to see that there is a demand,
a necessity, for his profession. Without such demand the supply
would be useless.
The medical doctor, for instance,
must convince the people that they cannot get well when sick without
his assistance. To convince them of this he must make the healing
art as mysterious as possible, so that none but a professional can
know how to treat the sick. To make the healing art mysterious and
difficult a foreign and dead language is used; much stress being
laid also upon the knowledge to be gained in colleges, attendance
upon which is beyond the reach of the common people, especially
knowledge gained in foreign medical colleges; also upon knowledge
to be gained from the reading of foreign authors and especially
* * *
All these things—the mystery, the
deference to precedent, the honor given to ancient and foreign authority,
naturally and inevitably cause the medical profession to lean toward
more than upon the
discoveries of modern experimenters.
This was well illustrated in medical
treatment of William McKinley. The surgeons had probably done their
part fairly well. Accidental but well known cases such as that of
Alexis St. Martin, more than half a century ago, had shown the doctors
that a large hole in the stomach (a badly neglected gun-shot wound)
is not necessarily fatal. In McKinley’s case the bullet holes were
small and the stomach nearly empty, making it a comparatively easy
matter for an operation to close
the wounds and put the patient on the road to rapid recovery. The
daily bulletins of the surgeons testified to his excellent bodily
 condition, predicting that
their patient would be at his office before the lapse of many weeks.
And such prediction, without reasonable
doubt, would have been the history of this famous case if the work
of the surgeon had not been defeated by that of the medical doctor.
But then as now, the honor, the dignity, the prestige, the mystery,
the reverential awe that should ever shield the profession from
the comprehension of the vulgar multitude could not, must not, allow
McKinley to get well without medicine—without the administration
of the traditional drugs with Latin names,
and . To permit the distinguished
patient to recover without poisons of some sort would be treason
to doctorcraft, whose very existence depends upon the ignorance
of the masses, coupled with their superstitious reverence for the
learning necessary to administer deadly poisons with healing effect.
But this was not all. The robust constitution
and splendid health of the patient—as testified by the doctors themselves—might
have withstood the shock of the pistol balls and the scarcely less
deadly drug, had it not been for the work of another superstitious
tradition, namely, that a strong man recovering from wounds must
have nourishment, must have solid food, or he will die of starvation
within a very short time. In cases such as that of McKinley, as
experience shows, no nourishment
is needed—except that which has been stored away in the bodily tissues
for emergencies when the citadel of life is invaded—not until the
breach in the castle walls has been sufficiently repaired to allow
a part of the vital forces to be detailed to the work of digestion
and assimilation of food.
* * *
In the similar case of Garfield it
was the criminal blundering of both surgeons and medical doctors
that killed the patient, or rather that prevented his recovery from
the nearly fatal ball of Guiteau’s pistol. The repeated searchings
for the ball prevented the “healing by first intention,” and the
administration of alcoholic stimulants instead of assisting the
heart to do its work, hastened its final collapse.
If, in the McKinley case, the doctors
of medicine showed their devotion to the traditions of their craft
the same can be truthfully said of the doctors of law.
If evolutionary investigations have
proved anything, and if the experiences of the ages is [sic] worth
anything, it has been conclusively proved to all minds open to rational
conviction that punishment for crime is unscientific, irrational,
inefficient—or rather that it defeats its own object. That crime
is the result of ignorance, of bad heredity or of unfortunate environment,
or of a combination of two or more of these causes, and that therefore
both praise and blame are irrational, unscientific. That it would
be quite as rational to punish a man for being sick, lame or otherwise
unsound (insane) physically as it would be to punish him for the
commission of crime—an act which shows him to be mentally sick (insane),
mentally lame, else so ignorant as to render him irresponsible.
Regardless of all the discoveries
of scientific investigators, blind to the teachings of all time
which show that the fear of death does not prevent killing, the
law doctors in the McKinley case showed that they had not got beyond
the traditions of their craft—the primeval barbaric law which says,
“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”
And so likewise the doctors of theology,
in their treatment of the Czolgosz-McKinley case. They too, as well
as the doctors of medicine and of law showed their adherence to
old-time tradition instead of the teachings of modern science. They
too were loud if not brutal and savage in their demands for the
punishment of Czolgosz. They, too, still believe in punishment as
a cure for crime. With the lawyers they demand the
, the law of retaliation or revenge.
Their text book [sic] of theologic
traditions says[,] “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment”—Matt.
xxv[,] 46; also “the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable
and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and
all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with
fire and brimstone; which is the second death”—Rev. xxi, 8, together
with much more of like tenor.
These “Reverend” gentlemen hastened
to show to the world that they had more confidence in their collection
of crude traditions of an obscure, non-progressive, ignorant, undeveloped
and barbaric people than they have in the deductions of reason,
of modern science and of larger human experience.
True to their “Bible” training and
true to the customs of the Christian church when in power, they
demanded that Czolgosz be burned to death in the “electric chair”—instead
of the old fashioned and unscientific fire of fagots and turpentine—as
a preparation for eternal burning in the next world.