The spy system has never been in much favor with Anglo-Saxon...

Medical Brief

The spy system has never been in much favor with Anglo-Saxon peoples. It may be necessary, in certain cases and under certain conditions, to employ it for the detection of crimes and criminals; but it is always regarded, by right-thinking persons, as being at best a sort of necessary evil, only to be made use of when all other means fail, and in which no right-feeling man or woman cares to take an active part. It is, in short, in the mind of the decent citizen, a species of dirty work, only to be employed where absolutely necessary to circumvent equally dirty work with its own weapons.

All of which we have said before in these pages, and are led to reiterate by certain events which have recently occurred not a hundred miles from the office of this journal. The spectacle of a city health officer hiring paid decoys to induce a Christian Science practitioner to render advice to a presumably sick person for which the decoy made payment with a marked bill, as though he were entrapping a suspected embezzler or forger; thereupon dragging the practitioner—a lady—to the police stations and subjecting her to the indignities of disrobing and searching her like a common thief; such a spectacle, we say, is not calculated to inspire any great respect, either in the public or the professional mind, for organized medicine. Such a procedure is justly regarded by all right-minded persons as an outrage upon common decency, and quite naturally arouses public sympathy upon the side of the victim of such brutal methods. In the case in question, the prosecuting attorney declined to issue a warrant for the Christian Science healer, we think, very rightly. And we are sure that the entire medical profession repudiates with disgust and indignation the uncalled-for action on the part of the health officer.

Aside from the natural disgust that such third-degree methods arouse, in the minds even of those who discountenance what they believe to be the mischievous activities of Christian Science and similar cults, it should be pointed out that they defeat the very ends to which they are supposed to be directed. Nothing furthers an obscure or struggling cause like persecution. It serves only to arouse public sympathy and respect, even for people and causes who are not in themselves deserving of sympathy and respect. In cases such as the one we have cited, the original issue is entirely lost sight of in the overshadowing spectacle of oppression and persecution of the weak by the strong. By all means let us expose what we believe to be the fallacies and evils of these health cults, so far as they are fallacious and evil; and use our utmost efforts in a legitimate fashion, to protect the public against their delusions. But let us confine ourselves to the limits of common decency, and avoid the foolish mistake of fanning into more vigorous life, by the winds of persecution, the flame which it is our purpose to quench. As a general proposition, we should say, the efforts of the medical profession in this direction should be confined to educating the public. Legal prosecutions would better originate with the public who are injured by irregular and unqualified practitioners.

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