An excerpt from the beginning of CHAPTER I.
MEDICINE: A TRADE OR A PROFESSION?
DIMIDIUM facti, qui coepit, habei. "He who hath begun, hath half done." Oh, that beginning! There's the rub which makes calamity ... and yet, on the other hand, there are many folk who make numerous beginnings yet never finish their tasks. Well, thank heaven, I've begun! Shall I ever finish?
Certainly I would do the job quite properly if there was someone at my bedside in the early morning to take down my waking thoughts in shorthand. What fine chapters I write then How quickly are ideas, such splendid ideas, spun on the loom of my brain! From lack of a recording angel, what magnificent conceptions are lost to the world then!
For a long time I have intended to write something about Doctors and Doctoring, Past, Present, and Future.
Health is the most important thing to us all, individually and nationally. Disease is our most deadly and most powerful foe; and if the units do not enjoy good health, the State must be a sick State. Sickness brings poverty. A poor State is a weak State, for wealth is power, especially in this twentieth century.
I have been in general practice for a quarter of a century, and during all that time have taken an interest in medical politics. When I qualified, in 1889, there were still a large number of unqualified assistants helping in medical practice; very useful men they were, and very cheap. Like the old dispensers, their circumstances tended to make them stay a very long time with one employer. They consequently had a good knowledge of the work of the practices with which they were associated, and got to know the patients very intimately. But they were very much stronger in practice than in theory, and did little to advance the progress of medicine; their tendency was to preserve the old 'bottle-of-medicine' custom.
The appearance of the full-time medical officers of health had a most important influence in stimulating the idea of preventive medicine. The maxim that "Prevention is better than cure" has gradually demonstrated its truth, more perhaps to the members of the general community than to the profession; which does not cause surprise if one contemplates the profession as a trading concern. "One man's meat is another man's poison," and this clashing of pecuniary interests between two classes of the profession has had no small influence in retarding its progress as an organization for combating disease in the interests of the community. The battle between the whole-time doctors and the general practitioners is gradually and necessarily coming to an end, because the community cannot be expected to suffer pecuniary interests to block the way to its getting rid of sickness and disease as quickly as knowledge and organization can effect it.show more