THE INDIVIDUAL IN MEDICINE

Read before The International Hahnemannian Association, July, 1923, Atlantic City, N.J.

Frank W. Patch, M.D.., Boston, Mass.

 

[Note: This article is invested with a peculiar and poignant interest and is given first place in this issue of THE RECORDER, because of the fact that its author, my long-time friend and one of our ablest and best beloved physicians, suddenly passed away at his hotel in Boston, Friday evening, September 7th 1923 before any of his family could reach him from his home in Framingham, Mass.

The sad news came to me in a letter from one of his patients and a mutual friend, which arrived while I was engaged in reading proof and making up the form of this issue in which his article was to appear. Great is the loss from out thinning ranks in the passing of this noble, modest, sweet spirited, Christian gentleman and loyal follower of Hahnemann-STUART CLOSE].

It sometimes seemed to me as though one of the reasons why HOMOEOPATHY has not made more rapid strides in the practice of physicians during the past hundred years has been that so few have grasped the true art of individualization as the greatest component element of its teaching and yet homoeopathy was founded primarily on this tenet. Hahnemann insisted on it made all his studies and provings on this basis and those of his followers who have built a conspicuous success have done so, it seems to me, largely through their ability to grasp this especial feature of drugs usage.

This is the great outstanding difference between the practice of HOMOEOPATHY and the use of drugs by our friends of the opposite school. It is the thing that has always differentiated HOMOEOPATHY from all other methods. Recognition of individuality in drugs-study of individual human beings to the differentiated from each other. The application of the individual drug to the individual patient in an effort to restore harmony of the economy which we call health.

Someone has said that HOMOEOPATHY has no remedies for diseases, only remedies for people. Roughly speaking, of course, this is true, for when we restore harmony and health to the sick we have incidentally eradicated disease, whether it is of a simple form or a long standing chronic disorder.

In spite of these obvious facts, which are common knowledge to everyone who has read the Organon and has made an honest effort to practice its precepts, most of us are continually falling short of the best work of which we are capable through failure to carry out these principles to the end. I am convinced that our chief stumbling block is the very simplicity of HOMOEOPATHY itself. In acute diseases, in which field most of us begin our work, the selection of the similimum is a relatively simple matter for one who has made a careful study of his Materia Medica. It shortly becomes possible to care for a majority of the more common diseases with a few of our prominent drugs, a working knowledge of which is easily and quickly acquired.

The results obtained are excellent, far better than could be had through indiscriminate drugging or polyglot prescriptions; consequently one easily gets the habit of offhand prescribing. It is soon found that Aconite, Bryonia Phosphorus, etc., will taken care of most of the pneumonias; Gelsemium, Eupatorium or Rhus the influenzas, and so on. One does not expect to cut short an attack of whooping cough, for everybody has become accustomed to seeing it go on for an expected several weeks; likewise typhoid. We get in the habit of using certain drugs in certain acute conditions, and before we know it we are thinking of those drugs in their relation to the diseases rather than in their relation to people, and the thing is done.

We are successful. We are too busy to take time for abstruse study and before one realizes it he is crystallized into a physician who thinks in terms of his own experience. The result is a limitation in the breadth and scope of work which is usually ascribed to HOMOEOPATHY rather than to the thought processes of the physician himself. He is a successful man, he is curing his cases; but those principles when applied to chronic cases do not work. The practitioner usually resorts in his chronic work to hit or miss prescribing or the usual suppression and stimulation augmented by frequent surgery. He is treating diseases rather than people. To conquer chronic disease the physician must extend his homoeopathy. He must study individuals and for get diseases.

He must prescribe for people and their infinite manifestations of disorders. Hahnemann found this out years ago after long study and success in the treatment of acute disease and yet, strange as it may seem, he had the same failures that we have today with his chronic cases. What a pity that we cannot learn more from the experience of others.

The result of Hahnemanns failure was renewed and indefatigable study and finally his masterly work on “Chronic Diseases.” which even today is a closed book to a large majority of his followers, who feel that they are practicing homoeopathy; up to a certain point they are, it is true, but they are also unfortunately missing the finest part of their art.

The understanding that makes it possible to really eradicate chronic disease in so many instances, through treatment of the individual; occasional cases of cancer, epilepsy and tuberculosis have been cured by every master mind in homoeopathy; not by treating those disease, however, but by searching for and finding the deep-acting drug that was homoeopathic to the sick individual regardless of his minor and superficial external symptoms. We pay too much attention to these symptoms in taking our cases and overlook the more important-if less conspicuous characteristics of the patient.

I want to illustrate this by a case which has been under observation for the past year, not as showing exceptional; skill on the part of the prescriber, but rather as an example of the way one who knows better will sometimes blunder along when his vision is obscured by pathology and names of disease, as kept constantly before us by tradition.

Miss A—–an unmarried woman of sixty-six years, came under my care with the following history: She was the eldest of four children; father had died at sixty nine of peritonitis. Mother at seventy -seven, of apoplexy. She had never been very strong, yet had suffered from very little serious illness during her life. A loquacious, emotional type, who had always been protected from the harder side of things, slight of build , blue eyes, easily moved to tears, rather a pleasing personality on the whole.

Some four or five years ago, after a severe attack of influenza, she gradually developed a revere spasmodic bronchitis, which later settled into asthma with all the usual accompaniments of suffering and a great deal of cough and expectoration. Owing to the death of an older brother she had been obliged to leave home, and during the early part of last year was cared for at a small sanitarium outside of Boston.

Last summer she was at a well-known place in Connecticut; while there she became worse and the physician advised removal, as she had become practically helpless and her cough was so severe as to disturb other patients. She had also developed a passive uterine hemorrhage, which brought a good deal of anxiety, and for which Radium treatment was used.

When she was brought to Framingham she was practically helpless, unable to leave her bed and unable to lie down, getting a few hours sleep at night only by the sleep at night only by use of hypodermic injections of Adrenalin.

It was reported that a few bacilli of tuberculosis had been found; this I have never been able to confirm.

Here was something of a problem, and, apropos of what has been said above, blinded for the time being by the distress and suffering of the patient, I endeavored to relieve her condition first by ill-chosen remedies that seemed to bear some relation to the acute symptoms, which were so very striking and prominent that one would except relief in some degree to follow very shortly.

Aralia rac. did give a good deal of comfort for a time, likewise Kali carb. Dulcamara and Drosera, all of which were selected with care, but still, as I can see now in looking back, without a comprehensive grasp of the patients whole nature. After each one of these drugs some little improvement followed for a time and the patient was gradually gaining a little strength for sitting into a chair and walking about the room. Yet the severe attacks of asthma kept returning and returning, sapping her vitality faster than new strength could develop.

Finally a new study was made with the following symptoms as a basis:

Cough worse at night; cough worse when lying; expectoration copious; worse by heat; flat yellow moles.

Of the remedies brought into the field for study through the repertory analysis, the most prominent were: Asafoetida, Bryonia, Lachesis, Lycopodium, Pulsatilla and Sulphur. The next step was a final differentiation through study of these various drugs from the Materia Medica text in relation to this individual patient as I had come to know her. Bryonia was out of the question. It was not an acutely inflammatory state, there was no unusual thirst, neither was the patient irritable or pugnacious, as is the habit of the Bryonia individual.

There was nothing of the snakelike nature in the patients make-up, so Lachesis was ruled out. Asafoetida was not of sufficient calibre to cope with so severe a case. This narrowed it down to Pulsatilla, Lycopodium and Sulphur. Of these Pulsatilla seemed to cover the nature of the patient better than anything else. Throughout her life she had been prostrated by heat and humidity. She always had desired open air, dry air and open windows. There was never any marked thirst, her blue eyes and voluble emotional nature were like the Pulsatilla, so Pulsatilla was given and the result seems to have justified the choice.

She is not yet a well woman, but she is steadily progressing toward health; spends a large part of her time out of doors, goes up and down stairs at will, walks about the grounds every day. There has been only rarely in the past two months any reminder of the asthma. She lies down at nigh and sleeps usually about six hours or more. There are still some attacks of the bronchial cough, but they are growing less frequent and less severe. Best of all her color and strength are constantly improving and she herself feels that she is getting well. It seems fairly probable that another remedy will be needed before the end of this case, and it is still uncertain as to what that may be.

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