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Source: Lucifer, the Light-Bearer
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Doctors and the Laity”
Author(s): Harman, Moses
Date of publication: 28 November 1901
Volume number: 5
Issue number: 46
Series: third series
Pagination: 372-74 (excerpt below includes only pages 372-73)

Harman, Moses. “The Doctors and the Laity.” Lucifer, the Light-Bearer 28 Nov. 1901 v5n46 (3rd series): pp. 372-74.
William McKinley (medical care: criticism); McKinley physicians (criticism); William McKinley (medical care: compared with other cases); criminals (dealing with); law (criticism); McKinley assassination (religious response: criticism).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; James A. Garfield; Charles J. Guiteau; William McKinley; Alexis St. Martin.
Click here to view the editorial (referenced below) in which Harman contends McKinley’s physicians were partly responsible for the president’s death.

The date of publication provided by the magazine is November 28, E. M. 301.

Whole No. 893.

Alternate magazine title: Lucifer, the Lightbearer.


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 season?”
     “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 ANCIENT authors.

*     *     *

     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 and upon TRADITION 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 IMMEDIATE 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 [372][373] 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, MERCURY and DIGITALIS. 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 AT ALL 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 LEX TALIONIS, 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.



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