HC Deb 20 February 1856 vol 140 cc1012-5

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he begged in move that the Bill be now read a second time, with a view to its being referred to a Select Committee.


said, there wore many objections to the measure, and he must therefore express a hope that the Bill might be committed at some distant day, as there was considerable difference of opinion in the country as to the merits of the Bill.


said, that by this Bill no medical man would be able to recover costs of medical attendance unless his name was on the register, and the Bill also provided that no person could hold an office in any public capacity, or in any hospital or infirmary, unless his name was upon the register. Every medical man must belong to some college, which college had power to strike his name off the register. The Bill thus gave a monopoly to the members of those colleges. It was all very well in the law to say that none but barristers and solicitors should practise, because law was an exact science compared with medicine. A recent case occurred in Edinburgh, where an examining body refused a diploma to a gentleman, otherwise qualified, because he refused to promise not to practise homœopathy. Now, the House ought to be aware that at the present moment several hundred educated medical practitioners were practising homœopathy in this country who were as honest, as scientific, and more successful than the others, but would hereafter be liable to have their names struck out of the register at the dictum of those bodies. Certainly the state of medical science in the country would not justify the House, in his opinion, in giving them such large powers. One of the greatest writers on medicine, Dr. Forbes, said that the present state of medicine in this country required complete and entire revision. Yet by the Bill now under consideration it was proposed to give the medical bodies a complete and entire monopoly of practice. Dr. Chambers, a distinguished physician, speaking of Dr. Williams to an astonished auditory, said that Dr. Williams "had no confidence in medicine." It was said of another distinguished physician, Dr. Davies, that, at the close of his life, ho used to declare he could not tell whether he had done more harm or good by his prescriptions. During the cholera season a Commission was appointed to examine the progress and treatment of cholera in the metropolis. One of the Commissioners thought it his duty to examine the Homoeopathic Hospital in Golden Square. No one was more strongly prejudiced against homœopathy than that gentleman. He saw the treatment; he said that all the cases were cases of real cholera, and ho declared that the treatment was the most successful of any that he saw, and that if ho had the disease, it was to the treatment of that hospital that be should recur. Before the House consented to give such powers as the Bill conferred, it ought carefully to consider whether great injustice might not be done to duly-educated practitioners, and whether some modification of the clauses would not be necessary.


said, he agreed with his noble Friend that some clauses of the Bill would require careful reconsideration, but he thought that it was admitted that some security ought to be taken with respect to examination and the registration of those duly qualified. There might he a difference of opinion with regard to the constitution of the council. The proposed power to strike a man off the register without appeal he also thought a fair subject for consideration. But there was nothing in the Bill to prevent a man from practising homœopathy, and he doubted whether they could interfere if a particular course of treatment was found to be attended with beneficial results. Repeated applications had been made to the Government to deal with the subject now before them, but all attempts had failed in consequence of the jealousies existing between the various branches of the profession. Some years ago he had hoped that those differences would have been got over, but they had broken out afresh. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Headlam) had proposed a similar Bill last year, and he (Sir G. Grey) had recommended it being printed for circulation. Copies of that Bill had been sent to the two great Universities, and other bodies in the kingdom; and he believed, that although the differences in the profession with regard to the Bill were not altogether reconciled, there was now a greater approach to agreement of opinion than had heretofore prevailed. The Bill had been before the country, and before all branches of the profession, for the last six or seven months, and he trusted that the House would now accord it a second reading.


said, that, remembering the improvements that had taken place in medical treatment, and the manner in which the older branches of the profession had set their faces against modern improvements, he thought it a dangerous power to enable the medical colleges to strike off a man's name for anything so indefinite as "misconduct," which might be immoral conduct or mere medical treatment. He had no sympathy with homœopathy unless upon the principle that the less of a bad thing you took the better, but he hoped care would be taken that there should be no interference with that freedom of practice which had hitherto been permitted in this country. At the same time it was right that persons should not be let loose to practise without a certicate that they had been properly educated for the medical profession.


said, that the Bill extended to Ireland, and would require some alteration. In the first place, the University of Dublin was entirely omitted from the Bill, and the measure was an illustration of the old story of a Bill—half for Ireland, and half for England.


said, he was bound to point out that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was mistaken in his observations. He would propose to put the Bill down for Committee in the first week after Easter. It might be here mentioned that no restrictions were proposed beyond what were already in force, and with regard to a non-registered practitioner being unable to sue for fees, that was the case at the present time with practitioners who had not been admitted of some college. On the other hand, there would be great advantage in persons who were registered being permitted to practise anywhere, instead of being limited to certain districts.

Bill read 2°.

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