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with the case, except positive and unquestioned facts, too frequently the medical witness takes the stand an avowed partisan, and shapes his evidence to sustain some personal interest or preconceived notion. Nearly all the cases of trials for alleged malpractice have their real origin in the malicious suggestions of a medical man, who subsequently comes upon the witnessstand as an expert in settling the many questions in which he has a personal interest. The position of such a witness is unenviable in the extreme. He is unworthy the name and association which give him such power for evil, and should be discountenanced by every means which we possess in our individual or organized capacity. The injury which such men inflict upon their brethren is incalculable; many are made to incur heavy expenses; others are mulcted in damages, which afterward hang heavily upon their resources, while a few are discouraged and driven from the profession. It is the duty of local societies to make stringent regulations in regard to that class of physicians who incite a prosecution for malpractice. The case should be investigated rigidly, and if the evidence convicts, the name of the guilty party should be stricken from the membership of every medical organization. Important as is the position of the medical man in courts of law, when upon his opinion rests the fair fame of a brother practitioner, it bears no comparison to those cases in which the life of
an individual is trembling in the balance. The responsibility which falls upon the medical witness in trials for suspected murder, is more weighty than that which occurs in any other relation of life. He assumes, indeed, to determine with more accuracy than can any other witness who did not actually see the deed committed, the nature and causes of death. His opinion is based upon an analysis of facts, often extremely subtile, and generally susceptible of various explanations. How important that his mind should be entirely free from all preconceived theories, and that he should be uninfluenced by position or prejudice. And yet we have occasional instances of medical witnesses exhibiting a degree of feeling altogether incompatible with that dispassionate search after truth, which should characterize the expert. Physicians, also, occasionally, seem forgetful of, or at least disregard professional courtesy, and manifest toward the opinions of their brethren a degree of contempt quite unworthy of their high position. In the history of a recent murder trial in this State, we have a melancholy example of the rancor which one medical witness. may exhibit toward another, growing out of a mere difference of opinion. Accusations of dishonesty, falsehood, and sinister motives are as unqualifiedly made against a member of the profession of irreproachable character and of the highest respectability, but a differing witness in
the case, as if the parties were in a common street-brawl. One witness taunts another with being paid for his services, as though that were a crime, and at the same time announces that he himself received nothing, as though that were a virtue, and gave greater impartiality to his opinion. Every physician who resorts to such unworthy and unprofessional means in a court of law, only degrades himself. It is desirable that in this country our profession should study thoroughly forensic medicine. The courts accord to our opinions great weight, and it is exceedingly important that we do not abuse or lessen their confidence. And to this end students should, as a body, study medical jurisprudence, and become familiar with their duties and obligations when summoned to the witness-stand. In most of the colleges this branch is taught by a physician, and in a most superficial manner. The student learns but little of practical value, especially as regards the nature of medical evidence. On this latter subject, the one of which he knows the least, and yet requires the most knowledge, he should be taught by a competent legal instructor. This defect in the system of medical teaching is becoming more and more evident, and until remedied by the permanent establishment of chairs of Medical Jurisprudence, and the selection of qualified teachers, the graduate must be regarded as entirely deficient in an important branch of his education.
EDICAL men have one stereotyped complaint against the community. It is the want of faith which the latter seem to have in the power of medicines to cure diseases. This scepticism is thought by many to be a growing evil in our times, and is generally attributed to the prevalence of those heterodox systems of practice, which eschew all drugs as poisonous, at least when taken in tangible quantities. The physician, prescribing under such circumstances, is oppressed with a disagreeable embarrassment, which is seen in his hesitating course and undecided treatment. If the patient or friends lacked faith in his remedies before, they are now confirmed in their unbelief, much to his discredit and discomfort. He prescribes timorously, and often indiscreetly, and in consequence fails to prove by his works that his faith has a substantial basis. The very prejudice in the popular mind which he so deprecates, is strengthened and widened by his own conduct, and rendered seriously detrimental to his own interests, and to the position of medicine in public favor. But is there really a want of confidence in the public mind
in the efficacy of medicines? We think not. On the contrary, it will more frequently be found, that what at first seemed incredulity, is in fact but an overweening confidence in remedies which leads both patient and friends to resort to a larger variety than the practitioner is disposed to employ. They may thus lose confidence in the physician, or in his ability to select medicines for the individual disease in hand, but that there must be some drug all-powerful to relieve the malady, they do not doubt. A person afflicted with an incurable disease, will seldom rest in the belief that his case does not admit of cure by medicines. When he has exhausted the resources of one medical man, he immediately resorts to another, and never wearies in his search after the priceless boon-a specific for his physical infirmity. It is an interesting question how far the medical profession is itself responsible for the prejudice of the public mind. A physician sick of an incurable disease, is generally the most intractable of patients. His confidence in the power of medicines to relieve him is often morbidly great. He can not brook disappointment; he will not listen to the suggestion that he is beyond remedial measures. This is but the expression of that habit of mind which he has himself acquired in endeavoring to cure this class of diseases. Long experience of the utter futility of his remedies in such cases, has not weakened his confidence in the power of medicines to cure all human