History of Medicine in America
Ⅲ: An American Perspective
By the time of the mid 1800s, there were three main branches of medicine. Regular Medicine, now commonly known as “Orthodox Medicine”, Eclectic Medicine and Homeopathy.
Eclectic medical doctors, the evolution of Thomsonian medicine, had gained more popularity and comprised a minority of 12% of the population of medical doctors. We can name them as doctors here because at the time there was no process of licensure for practicing medicine. Homeopathic medicine, with roots in Germany since the late 1700’s, had only recently been introduced into American in 1825, was experiencing rapid growth and popularity and had at that point already gained a significant portion of the market share. In just a few decades, Homeopaths comprised about 38% of medical practitioners.
Can you conceive what our current medical marketplace would look like today, if half of all the practitioners were Alternative Medicine practitioners? What about the astonishing statistic that 12% were herbalists? Do you think we would currently have health problems such as obesity, heart disease, cancer and the like, and to the degrees they all exist, if this were the case?
Back in the early beginnings of our nation, maintaining the diversity of our medical marketplace was sought to be preserved in our nation’s founding document, the Constitution of the United States of America.
A man by the name of Benjamin Rush, who was George Washington’s personal physician (among other great accomplishments), cautioned at the historical Constitutional Convention:
“The Constitution of this Republic should make special provision for medical freedom. To restrict the art of healing to one class will constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic. . . . Unless we put medical freedom into the constitution the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship and force people who wish doctors and treatment of their own choice to submit to only what the dictating outfit offers.”
How prophetic! Does that sound like our current medical system to you? How well do you think things have worked out?
With the diversity of the medical marketplace having been what it once was, you may be wondering how we got to where we are now. Let’s dive deeper into this subject next! In part two, we’ll unveil a complex series of events that changed our medical marketplace for the next century, and thereby greatly affecting how the average American views medicine on the whole! Your perspective, no doubt, will be enriched!