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"On the use of the term 'Allopathy'"

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(21 February 1846): 229

PDF from photocopy; Taubman Medical Library, University of Michigan.

To the Editor of the Lancet

Sir,-I regret to see, in a late leading article, that you (unguardedly, as I believe) adopt the nickname "allopathy," which the homœopathists have tried to impose on the profession; for there is nothing which would, in my opinion, tend so much to prolong the brief day of the fatal and extravagant system of homœopathy as an acquiescence in the term allopathy, so inapplicable to the science of medicine. Its adoption would greatly increase the importance of the framers of both terms, and would assist to hide from the public the fact that their practice is opposed by the accumulated experience of all the nations, not only that of medical men, but of the people at large. A person knowing but little of medical science, (and this must ever be the case of the greater number of patients,) would say--allopathy--homœopathy--well, doctors disagree, I have tried one pathy, now I'll try the other.

Medical men do not endeavour to cure disease by producing others of an opposite kind; they do not always oppose the actions which are going on in illness, or, as a general rule, adopt measures which would produce in a healthy person a state opposite to that which exists in the disease under treatment; consequently, I conclude that the word allopathy must be admitted to be a misnomer. An erroneous term is always injurious, even amongst the scientific, but the reception of this would be especially so to the public, who must be guided in the choice of medical men and medical systems by general impressions and mere report, and not by correct data on which they can reason; and I can conceive nothing that would more rejoice the homœopathists than the general adoption of a designation, which would imply, not that they were at variance with the accumulated knowledge of all the world on therapeutics, but merely with the opinion of an opposite party.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

John Snow, M.D.

London, February, 1846.

*** We cordially concur with the orthodox remarks of Dr. Snow, and feel with him that the less the term allopathy is used by professional men, the better.--Ed. L.

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