HC Deb 17 March 1841 vol 57 cc329-33

On the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Medical Profession Bill being moved,

Mr. Shaw

rose to express a hope, that the hon. Member would not now proceed to move the second reading of the Medical Profession Bill. He had in his hand a letter from the governor of the Apothecaries Company of Dublin, stating that the bill materially affected their body, that they had not yet had an opportunity of petitioning against it, and hoping the House would not proceed with it at present.

Sir De Lacy Evans

said, that the bill had been so rapidly pushed forward, that many persons very much interested in it had not even heard of it.

Sir Thomas Troubridge

really hoped the hon. Member would not proceed with his bill, because it appeared to meet with very general opposition. The army and nary surgeons were against it, and every party complained that they were unacquainted with its provisions.

Mr. Wakley

hoped the hon. Member would go on with the bill to-night, if he meant it to be read a second time at all.

Mr. M'Lean

understood that the College of Surgeons were preparing a measure on the subject, and if the hon. Member postponed his bill for a little, he might be able to improve it very materially.

Mr. Hawes

said, that very few bills had had so much circulation, previous to their introduction to the House, and publicity, as this. He did not see that any valid reasons had been urged for the postponement of the bill. He should compress whatever he had to say on the subject into as small a compass as possible. He was prepared to show that the plan he adopted was not a capricious one, taken up suddenly and without deliberation; but that it was a plan supported by some of the most distinguished medical men now living—supported not only by men who had given evidence on the committee, but by others who by their publications, and by the public proceedings of their own particular bodies, sanctioned, to a greater or Jess extent, the measure which he now proposed. The House were aware, that in 1834, a committee sat on the subject of medical education. On the evidence given before that committee he had founded the greater portion—the main principlts—of this measure. The profession, in the evidence given before that committee, had complained of a total want of uniformity—that there was no uniformity in the education of medical students—that there was no body to which they could look up, and that the medical profession generally had no confidence in the existing bodies—that the College of Physicians had employed their powers, not for the benefit of the profession, but for their exclusive advantage. The great body of licentiates were excluded from all the privileges of the institution. The College of Surgeons might be considered a voluntary body, conferring diplomas, but without the power of giving legislative protection to its members—neither obtaining the confidence, nor conferring advantages upon the profession He would refer to the case of Dr. Harrison in support of that statement. That gentleman was in great practice as a physician and surgeon, without being a licentiate of the College of physicians, and yet, on showing that his practice was of a surgical, not a medical nature, he evaded any penalties which the College might be enabled to inflict upon him. The College of Physicians, as it now stood, did not represent the great body of that profession. With regard to the Apothecaries' Company, it was so constituted, that it was impossible that it could obtain the confidence of the profession at large. It was not, then, matter of surprise that the medical practitioners, who derive no advantage from the corporate body, should be desirous of some change being made. The hon. Member then referred to a pamphlet just published by Sir Charles Bell on the subject. That Gentleman had used language, with regard to the College of Surgeons, much more strong than he (Mr. Hawes) would have ventured to use. The evils of the present system, indeed, could not be denied; and this measure was intended to remedy them. Its chief provisions would be directed to the attainment of uniformity of education, an authentic registration of the medical practitioners, and the establishment of a superintending body elected by the profession, to whom should be entrusted its general management. He begged distinctly to say that he did not propose to invade any existing medical corporation, or to narrow its powers. Should such a result ensue, it could only arise in an indirect way, and only with the general concurrence of the profession. His plan was also sanctioned by high medical authority. In 1834, Sir B. Brodie, in his evidence before the committee, said that he approved of the adoption of a superintending body similar to that which he now proposed. Again, Mr. Green, who had recently published some pamphlets on this subject, suggesting another plan, had on the whole been favourable to the general principles of the present bill, approving a general council. Dr. Elliotson, Dr. Copland, Dr. Arnott, and many other eminent medical men had also sanctioned the broad outline of his plan, and he believed that instead of degrading and destroying the medical profession, that it would prove just the reverse, and would give a higher character to it—one worthy of a learned and liberal profession. It would be found also, that the existing corporations, instead of quarrelling with Members of the medical profession and amongst themselves, might prove great auxiliaries to the carrying out the system. No one could say that the present system was calculated to secure what all admitted was most desirable, namely, a highly educated body of medical men. To show how it worked, he would only mention that under the operation of the new Poor-law, it was necessary to look to the qualifications of the medical men presenting themselves to fill the various offices under it. It appeared from a paper that had been presented to him, that of 1,830 medical men who presented themselves to fill the offices under the Poor-law, 327 had never been examined in surgery at all, 323 had never been examined in medicine, and 233 had never been examined by any medical body at all. He believed that the medical practitioners, generally speaking, were favourable to this bill, although particular parts of it might be objected to by some of them, and although the medical corporations might not give it their support. The profession at present was governed by nineteen self-elected medical bodies; it would, if his bill passed, be placed under the controul of a council in each of the three kingdoms, the members of which would be elected by the whole body of the medical profession. The hon. Member concluded by moving the second reading of the bill.

Mr. Ewart

seconded the motion. Whoever looked at the state of the medical profession must see that it was in a state of disorder, and that it required the amendment that would be supplied by the present bill.

Mr. Darby

thought that it was very remarkable that the hon. Member for Lambeth, in moving the second reading of his bill, had said little or nothing respecting the general enactments in it. The bill, as it stood, only affected the medical men connected with public institutions, and did not touch the great body of the profession. The enactments in the body of the bill did not agree with the preamble, and were altogether inconsistent with it. If a person did not intend to practice in connection with any public institution, he need sot bare any certificate under this bill.

House counted out.