The chief health official of Philadelphia, and his grand vizier, got to feeling rather “uppity”, as the colored brother puts it, and about the beginning of the year issued a semi-official order to the medical profession of Philadelphia that they must use diphtheria antitoxin or be subject to the official displeasure. The medical profession promptly told the official displeasure. The medical profession promptly told the officials to cross the river Styx. The medical profession seemed to think that they had a few rights left which even health board officials could not take away from them, and one of these rights was the treating of their patients as they saw fit. Antitoxin and non-antitoxin doctors were unanimous in this.
one of the statements made by the health board men was that the doctor who did not inject diphtheria antitoxin into his patients suffering from that disease refused to do so “because it would cut down the number of visits to the families and reduce their fees.” Do you wonder that the doctors rose up against the official doctors, clad, though they be, with more power than is good for the common weal?
Diphtheria antitoxin is essentially a proprietary drug, heavily advertised in medical journals, and very profitable. There is no more just grounds for a law, or for official interference, compelling doctors to use this proprietary for diphtheria than there would be for one compelling them to use antikamnia for the relief of pain, or any other proprietary for what it is advertised to relieve. Many of these proprietary drugs are very good in certain conditions (often better than many of the prescriptions sent to drug stores), but to try to compel a doctor to use any one of them is to return to the dark ages when human liberty was but a dream.
If advertising cannot make one to the proprietary drugs go it is unwise for officials to try to force it to go by means of the power with which they are temporarily clothed.
These Philadelphia health officials made the statement, in effect, that no case of diphtheria proves fatal in which diphtheria antitoxin is used early enough, and no one contracts the disease who receives prophylactic injections of it. Against this put the statement of Dr. Henry Beates, president of the Board of Medical Examiners for Pennsylvania, who, in an interview brought about by this foolish action of the health men, stated that he had never lost a case of diphtheria, but he knew to his “personal knowledge of the deaths of forty children who would otherwise have recovered but for the use of this antitoxin.” When a man like Dr. Beates, of the University of Pennsylvania, makes a statement like this, it is time for the advertisers of antitoxin to abate their arrogant assertions.