A Chapter on Medical Legislation

TEXAS has added another chapter to the history of unsuccessful attempts at monopolistic medical legislation. Before the Legislature assembled in January, printed copies of a proposed medical bill were sent to the members through the mails, with the request that they give their support to this or a similar bill. The wording of the following quotation, which is taken from a printed note attached to said bill, plainly shows that there was a general understanding in the several states as to what course should be pursued in the Legislature regarding medical legislation. "Note:— This is a copy of a bill prepared by the Illinois State Board of Health to submit to their legislature for adoption. Its provisions are ample and simplify the business," etc. One of the "ample provisions" reads in part as follows: "Sec. 9. That any person shall be regarded as practising medicine within the meaning of this act who shall operate for or upon, prescribe for, or otherwise treat, or profess to heal or cure any physical or mental ailment or any physical injury to or deformity of another," etc. The bill, however, was not formally introduced, and while another and more drastic measure was being prepared, the time was used to the best advantage by bringing Christian Science to the attention of the members, both by reading matter and by personal effort. Soon another bill made its appearance, and was formally introduced and referred to a committee. This bill was known as H. B. No. 627, and a more vicious bill could scarcely have been framed. A part of the most objectionable section reads as follows: "Any person shall be regarded as practising medicine or surgery within the meaning of this act who shall use the words or letters 'Dr.' or 'Doctor,' 'Professor,' 'M. D.,' or 'M. B.' connection with his or her name, or any other title intending to imply or designate him or her as a practitioner of medicine or surgery in any of its branches, and who in connection with such title or titles, or without the use of such titles, shall prescribe, direct, recommend, advise, apply, give, or sell, for the use of any person or persons, any drug or medicines, or any other agency or application for the treatment, cure, or relief of disease, and it is further provided that the use of any of the aforesaid titles, or the exposure of a sign, circular, advertisement, or any other device or information, indicating thereby the occupation of the person or persons shall be considered prima facie evidence, and it is further provided that the provisions of this act shall apply to all persons professing or attempting to cure disease by means of the so-called systems of 'faith-curism,' 'mind-reading,' 'laying-on-of-hands,' and other similar systems," etc. A strong pressure was brought to bear on the committee to secure their approval of the bill, and while there was some opposition from the so-called "irregular" practitioners on the outside, the fact that at least four members of the committee were M. D.s made the outcome seem rather uncertain. But the committee delayed action for a days, and I was told that I need give myself no further concern.

However, that was not to be the end of the matter. On going to the Capitol, and on nearing the entrance to the House of Representatives, I noticed that quite a number' of physicians were present, both outside and inside. It immediately flashed upon me that something was up, and on finding several members of the committee I learned that such a cry had been raised on account of the bill being laid aside without giving all the doctors a formal hearing, that the committee felt compelled to reconsider their former action. A meeting was to be held that very night, at which time the representatives of the state medical association, as well as representatives of the various schools of medicine were to be present and express their views. There was no time to telegraph for any of the brethren to come, nor could the time for the hearing be changed. When the hour arrived the procession of doctors filed into the room, and when I noticed that of those on the committee who were positively opposed to the bill, only one was present, it seemed for a moment that an ominous cloud was lowering. When all were seated, the reading of the bill in sections began, and various expressions of approval were heard as the reading progressed. I decided to say nothing until the objectionable section was reached. When it was reached there was a pause, during which time several were noticed in earnest conversation. Then the doctor who was reading the bill began again, and said, "We have decided to make a change in this section of the bill. We do not believe that there is any chance to pass the bill as it stands. There seems to be such opposition from somewhere that to leave it as it was framed would defeat the entire bill. If people want magnetic healers, vitapathic doctors, or Christian Science treatment let them have it, and let them pay for it. We have decided to insert this amendment: 'Provided, that the provisions of this act shall not apply to persons professing or attempting to cure disease without the use of drugs or surgical appliances.' " After some further talk on matters pertaining to the practice of medicine, vivesection, etc., the meeting came to an end. Before the committee made its report other medical bills came before it, and finally a bill was gotten up by the committee, known as S. H. B. Nos. 358, 453, 627. and this, containing the above amendment, was reported favorably.

Soon a lecturer came to this state, and while it was held desirable to have a lecture, the way did not seem clear. One morning a telegram came, offering a lecture in the Capital City if arrangements could be made. The legislators had been prepared by the previous distribution of lectures, and the thought came that the proper thing to do would be to have it in the great granite Capitol, the most magnificent building of its kind in the Union. In talking with some of the members about the matter all expressed a desire to hear a lecture, and were not opposed to giving the House of Representatives for that purpose. However, the general sentiment of the Legislature was against permitting the Hall to be used for outside purposes, and as so distinguished a gentleman as the Hon. Wm. J. Bryan obtained the use of the Hall only by a great effort on the part of his friends, it was considered almost impossible to get it. But within two hours from the time the telegram was received all arrangements had been made, and a resolution offering the House of Representatives for a lecture to be given to the "Members of the Legislature, the State Officials, the Press, and the people of Texas in general" was carried by acclamation. The lecturer (Mrs. Knott) was introduced by the speaker of the House in a very appropriate address, and much interest was manifested in the subject. This was indeed a fitting finale to attempts at tyrannical medical legislation, and it is noteworthy that these events took place on the eve of the celebration of San Jacinto, the day of Texan independence. The bill as reported by the committee was never brought to a final vote in the House, and a similar bill reported favorably by a Senate committee met the same fate in that body.

The Communion and Annual Meeting
July 20, 1899

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