Sunday, October 11, 2009

Medical Lesson from a Founding Father

"Avarice, in physicians, discovers itself in their extravagant charges, and in the means which are sometimes employed to obtain payment for such debts as are just. I have heard of a surgeon in the British army, who made it a practice to take the swords of the officers, as a security for the future payment of his bills. A physician, in this country, once took, by legal force, a solitary cow from a poor woman, on which she chiefly relied for the subsistence of her family. But it is after the death of the master of the family, that the avarice of physicians appears in its most distressing and cruel forms. Behold one of these harpies enter into the house of a widow, who has just been bereaved of her husband, on whose daily labour she depended for her daily support. Unmoved by her tears, and by the sight of a group of helpless children, calling upon her, perhaps in vain, for their customary articles of food, sternly he demands an immediate settlement of his accompt.* Gracious Father of the human race! touch the heart of this wretch with a sudden sense of thy justice, and cause him to feel the enormity of his crime!"

-- Dr. Benjamin Rush, M.D., Sixteen Introductory Lectures to Courses of Lectures Upon the Institutes and Practice of Medicine, Philadelphia: Bradford and Innskeep (1811) at 126.

* "accompt" = account.

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