Letter from An Old Surgeon

A brief interlude from the usual style of post today, as I'm still attempting to erase the Yankee Rubber Baby from my brain. The following letter was printed in The Monthly Gazette of Health in June 1821. A surgeon, not the most modest fellow in the world, gives an explanation for quackery - it's all the fault of tightwad patients... I am in practice as a consulting surgeon, and admire the spirit with which you lash quackery, both regular and irregular; but you must allow me to shew that patients themselves are the cause of Empiricism, as I think I shall convince you and your readers, by the following instances. I have attained considerable celebrity, and in some particular complaints, can justify my pretensions to a niche in the Temple of Fame, by affording instant and permanent relief. This I feel great pride and pleasure in performing, whenever such cases occur. One, amongst many, was a gentleman, who came from the West Indies on purpose for my advice, called on me in his carriage, was cured on his second visit, and paid me, with abundance of compliments, a fee, which of course I could not look at till he had departed, when I found it was ОNЕ POUND! Another, a very old gentleman, who was relieved in the same speedy manner, and was equally LIBERAL! but probably, he means to remember me in his will. I could give you many instances where my conduct has been thus honourable, although I might have kept these patients under my care for months, and then have cured them; yet so inconsiderate, and I will even say dishonourable has been their conduct. I do not mean to assert that I am more honourable than all other professional men, for I hear the same tale from many who have ability to relieve, but who, like me, have thus suffered for their generous behaviour. Men of no principle in the profession will guard against their patients' parsimony; and those of no ability will of necessity oblige their patients to be visited frequently; but I would wish to ask you and your readers, whether the treatment I have described, and which professional men are often subjected to, does not hold out an incentive to quackery and imposition? I certainly think that a person of fortune, receiving speedy and permanent relief from a distressing complaint, at the hands of a man who has devoted a large portion of his life, and considerable expence, to acquire competent abilities, should offer a reward proportionate to the benefit the patient derives; and if this plan were more generally adopted, empiricism would receive its death-wound. I am, Sirs, Yours, &c.



  1. Such a self-effacing fellow! ;). Note he doesn’t go into detail about the hows and whys of his remedies

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