« AnteriorContinuar »
instead of advancing to the state of ulceration, had, with one or two trifling exceptions, shrunk as the frame generally became more emaciated; be even felt less inconvenience from cold extremities; and he was waiting with patience, and composure of mind, for the hour of his departure, which was evidently near at hand.
ON THE DIGESTIVE ORGANS.
It is not my intention to follow the thread of Abernethy's publications seriatim, many of them being exclusively and technically surgical; but I must on no account pass by that noted work of his—" On the Disorders of the Health in general, and of the Digestive Organs in particular, which accompany Local Diseases, and obstruct their Cure." It fixed more attention upon him than all his other writings, and served his purpose more ways than one; for whilst it tended to exalt the practice of surgery, it enabled him, without presuming (which he used to say he never did), to practise physic,—to liberate his mind, by concentrating, as it were, his medical opinions in a book, which purported to be part the second of his "Surgical Observations." The prescriptions, in fact, which the book contains, are few and simple; whilst its pages are replete with maxims appertaining to the regulation of the general health, without the knowledge of which, no surgeon can claim distinction, or be entitled to public confidence.
The golden maxim, upon which his argument was mainly founded, is, that "no part of the animal body can be very materially disordered, without occasioning a corresponding derangement of the whole constitution;" that there is, namely, an established intercommunity and reciprocity between the whole body, and each part respectively. And what is this, but to adopt the language of an inspired Apostle, who, in his beautiful parallel between the human body, and the mystical body of Christ, or the church, (all the members of which, though they be many, and adorned with different gifts, yet make but one mystical body, united to their head, Jesus Christ,) thus speaks of the former? "But now hath God set the members, every one of them, in the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor, again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."— 1 Cor. xii. 18, &c.
With reference to the digestive organs, more especially, we are told, that "as local diseases disturb the functions of these organs; so, conversely, a deranged state of them, either induced by sympathy, or existing primarily, materially affects the progress of local complaints." The truth of his opinions he establishes by well-selected cases, which fell under his own observation; but, after his own fashion, I shall refer my readers for these to the book itself.
It is admitted by Mr. Abernethy, with his usual candour, that many writers, both ancient and modern, have been aware of the reciprocity that exists between general and local disease, as well as of the connexion of both, with the common sensorium, the brain; but it is evident that this knowledge has become more general and practical, since he began to call the attention of the public to it; for although his writings are addressed to his professional brethen, they are written with unusual perspicuity, and are admirably calculated to let all mankind see that, what is called the "Art of Healing," is dependent on scientific principles, and claims a nearer affinity to the Divine nature, than any other art or science whatever. No one could feel this more sensibly than Abernethy, who was not more worthy of our admiration as a medical philosopher, than as a benevolent man. Perhaps a little more worldly-mindedness might have better suited some of his patients, who came to him to be cured by his prescriptions, rather than by his philosophy, which required reflection. With the exception of specific medicines for particular diseases, his prescriptions, as I have said, were few and simple; and, any one who may happen to be familiar with the practice of the late Dr. Baillie, as far as that can be gathered from the numberless prescriptions of his, which survive him, will perceive a great coincidence of plan between that eminent physician and Abernethy. Both possessed a thorough knowledge of the human frame, in its most perfect state of health, as well as after it had undergone the changes of disease; and, having ascertained, to the best of their power, the nature of the defect in any particular case under consideration, they pointed their curative means accordingly. Still these were mostly directed to the digestive organs, and we subjoin two of their formulae, as specimens of their usual mode of prescribing :—
Re Mistur. Camphor 3vj.
Infus. Rhei 3v.
TR. Humuli 3j.
Sodae Carb. gr viij. M. F. haustus bis terve indies sumendus.
M. B. R Infus. Gentian Comp. Jj.
Infus. Sennse 3iij.
TR. Cardamomi Comp. 3j.
The different preparations of opium, antimony, and mercury, were freely used by both; both would probably have added gr. v., of the blue pill, to be taken occasionally at bed-time, to the above draughts; and Dr. Baillie, who was well acquainted with the varied resources of the London Pharmacopoeia, failed not to call to his aid whatever important medicines his patients might require; of these, the muriated tincture of iron, was a great favourite with him. But the wise object of both was to obtain clear views, and to avoid getting confused by the exhibition of a multiplicity of medicines; as must ever be the fortune of empirics, who, nine times out of ten, cannot distinguish between the symptoms which are appropriate to disease, and the twinges which their random practice inflicts.*
* It is evident, from the frequent appearance of the carbonate of soda, in Dr. Baillie's prescriptions, that he thought highly of its virtues. He used sometimes to tell his patients, whose complaints were merely disorders of the digestive functions from over repletion, when they inquired how long they were to continue to take some such draught as that here inserted, "Oh! you may take it as long as you like, as long as you live, if you please."