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DOCTOR IN MEDICINE.
GRAVE question must ere long present itself for the consideration of the medical profession of this country, on the solution of which will depend its character at home and its position abroad, viz., By what title shall a practitioner of legitimate medicine be recognized? What shall constitute a Doctor in Medicine? Hitherto it has been deemed sufficient that an applicant for admission to a regularly organized society should present credentials showing him to be a graduate of a chartered medical college, or a licentiate of a County or State medical society. But the ease. with which charters are now obtained from State Legislatures for every nondescript association of men, whether for proper or improper purposes, has effectually broken down these safeguards to respectability, and thrown widely open the field of medicine to every one who desires to enter and profit thereby. With the single and most honorable exception of the State of North Carolina, we are not aware that any State has laws protecting the domain of scientific medicine from the intrusion of lawless adventurers. It will ever redound to the honor of the old North State,
that her legislators have shown such wisdom and intelligence, in ordaining that no one can assume the office of physician within her borders, who has not passed an examination before a State Board of Medical Examiners. In our own State, not only is the utmost license given to every species of charlatanry, but the chartered institutions of irregulars are placed on the same level with others, and the one may, by a civil process, even be compelled to receive into membership the graduates of the other. The recent attempts to establish a Homœopathic Professorship in the Michigan University and the efforts of this class of practitioners to obtain positions in hospitals, are indications of approaching evils that we would do well to heed, and, by timely action, avert. Our attention has been especially called to this subject by the recent application of several graduates of Homœopathic Colleges in the United States, to the British Medical Council, to be registered under the clause admitting graduates of Foreign Universities. The council found itself in a quandary, but finally referred the matter to the Attorney-General to advise the Council as to its duties. It is not difficult to predict the result of this inquiry; the institutions referred to will be found legally authorized to confer the degree of M. D., and the applicants will, doubtless, be admitted to registration. It may be a serious defect in the Registration Act, which is designed to distinguish qualified from unquali
fied practitioners, that the Medical Council has not power to decide as to the character as well as to the legal status of the Foreign University from which the applicant claims to have graduated. But this does not concern us so much as the question which has, in fact, been put to us by this action of the Medical Council, viz.: What constitutes a Doctor in Medicine in the United States? We should answer truly if we replied: The assumption of the title M. D. Neither the law nor the public require more, and both unite to protect the pretender in acting out his assumed character. But to be more exact in the definition, we should answer: Any institution or society which has the power granted it, in its charter, of conferring the degree of M. D. The laws in this country do not differ in this respect, we believe, from those of other countries, except in these important particulars: Charters are granted by our State Legislatures to any and every body of men, for any and every conceivable purpose, without restriction or reserve; while abroad, great discretion is exercised both as to the object of the corporate body, its necessity, and its character. Its powers are carefully limited, and it is jealously watched that it fulfill its duties. With us the case is widely different. At nearly every session of our State Legislatures a brood of medical institutions are chartered embracing every conceivable shade of quackery, all équally with the schools of legitimate medicine
entitled to confer the degree of M. D. and to represent themselves abroad as Universities. We shall leave the Medical Council to settle this question as they think proper after hearing the opinion of their legal adviser. We may, however, assure our brethren abroad that, in the United States, the title of M. D., in a legal sense, is a misnomer, and that the term university is applied equally to our most honorable and useful institutions of learning, and to corporations utterly unworthy of the association of the term— science. To the medical profession of this country we put the question: What is to constitute a Doctor in Medicine among us, and by what title or insignia shall an American physician be distinguished abroad? Had we but one legislative body before which we could lay our grievances, we might seek and obtain enactments defining who are, and who are not, qualified practitioners of medicine. But as we must appeal to our State Legislatures, so fickle in their action, and so much under the influence of the prejudices of the moment, it is idle to waste time in seeking legal protection. The barriers erected one year with labor and care, are the next levelled by the first breath of opposition. But happily there is a power among us whose jurisdiction extends to the remotest limits of our country, and whos decision will be respected. That power is the American Medical Association, our National Medical Congress. Standing as the recognized
representative body of legitimate medicine in this country, high above all law, and enforcing its mandates by an inherent moral force, it can legislate for its own protection, and no evil influence can reverse its measures, or thwart its designs. This Medical Congress has the power to determine what title shall hereafter designate the practitioner of legitimate medicine, and to this body the profession must make their appeal. Perhaps the simplest method of attaining the desired end would be by a certificate of membership of this National Association and an appropriate title. We could thus at once separate the herd of pretenders, and give to each person bearing such title and certificate, an honorable distinction at home and abroad. But whatever plan might be adopted, the necessity for action is becoming daily more and more pressing, and can not much longer be delayed, if we would rescue the profession from a position so anomalous that the false can not be distinguished from the true, by our foreign brethren. And we believe that such distinctive title would tend powerfully to elevate the rank and general character of medical men in this country, as it would be eagerly sought after by every respectable and qualified graduate.