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Conferences on the Moral Philosophy of Medicine


In these conferences which consist chiefly of the transference of ancient precepts to modern language and purposes, nothing is said relating thereto, that has not been voiced before, but some of the utterances may seem new to beginners; to others they may serve as reminders; and to all they will be salutary. That the systematic teaching of medical morals should constitute the early part of the student's education is evinced by the frequently expressed desire of young men to obtain the right kind of information for guidance in their professional relations and obligations. The moral philosophy of medicine, comprising as it does the science of the physician's duty in all his acts and concerns, the thorough knowledge of the laws of medicine and of the relations of the student as well as the graduate with his associates and other members of the community, seems a suitable title for these colloquies which consist of an exposition of some of the general and special principles of conduct of the aspi

rant to medical studentship, of the matriculated student, of the hospital-interne, and of the young practising physician, and include considerations on physicians of the past and present, on medical teachers, schools, and students, on the early cultivation of the senses as essential to the proper conduct of the study and practice of medicine, on the evolution of medical morals, on the special relations of the physician and patient, of the physician and colleagues, and of the profession and public, besides a discourse on the language of medicine, another on young writers and speakers, and a third on the length of life of physicians.



Answers to the aspirant's queries-The terms physic and physi cian-The nature and extent of the physician's mission-A glimpse at the medicine of early times-The word chirurgery The slow advance of the healing art during many ages, and its rapid progress in the nineteenth century-The true physician of the present; his labors and responsibilities.

IN undertaking the pleasant task of setting forth some of the long-established principles by which students and young physicians are guided in their worldly and professional intercourse, it has seemed wise to do so chiefly in the form of queries and answers; beginning with the aspirant to medical studentship.

When a young bachelor of arts thinks it time to select a profession, if his inclination be toward that of medicine, his first act, in all likelihood, will be to solicit the advice of his family's physician. In case of a favorable decision, the adviser and friend generally becomes his sponsor and, in due time, gives him the necessary credentials of moral, intellectual and physical fitness and special aptitude for the study of medicine. Having determined to be a medical student he expresses to his sponsor the desire to obtain certain items of information concerning the profession whose ranks he hopes to enter. This inquiring

propensity is encouraged because it is one of the good means by which to acquire the more quickly much of the needed knowledge, and by which, at once, are made known to the beginner those precious rules of conduct pointing the right path to be followed throughout his professional career. The character and the ready and comprehensive answers as well as the personality of the sponsor generally make a strong and lasting impression on the inquirer's receptive mind and retentive memory. His questions, which he is enjoined to formulate with care, and the replies he receives, often serve to confirm, to elucidate, or to supplement what he may have read or heard, for the sponsor sometimes follows the plan, adopted by certain teachers, of reversing the order of the quiz; the pupil asking the questions. This is very

profitable to the learner, for the answers are generally accompanied by comments and illustrations derived from mature experience.

By striving to question rightly, the inquirer soon learns to reply intelligently; so his early queries are answered in good faith howsoever strange they may seem. Among the pertinent questions he is wont to ask are: What was and is physic? What is a physician? Whence these titles? What is the nature and the extent of a physician's mission? To answer these questions intelligibly, the sponsor says, requires a short preliminary statement of the early use of the terms physic and physician; of the beginnings of the art of healing; and of the slow progress of the science of medicine during many centuries and of

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