We present this quote and observation from Richard Haehl on the life and times of Samuel Hahnemann. It is interesting to note that even Hahnemann’s colleagues were not convinced of the uselessness of bloodletting. Hahnemann was a man before his time. By observation alone he was able to determine what was useful for a patients recovery and what was detrimental to his health.
‘ NEGLECT ” OF BLOOD-LETTING
Since illness was to him nothing material, but a dynamic discord of the life force which is so closely dependent on the blood, every removal of blood seemed to him to be sheer dissipation of the life force necessary for the recovery of equilibrium in the physical state. In opposition to such wastage he demands the strengthening of the blood by suitable medicines, acting moderately, so that it may overcome the disease. The blood, the vital fluid, must at most be improved by regularised mode of life and suitable nutriment. Hahnemann can never express strongly enough his indignation against the misuse of the life force as practised by his opponents, particularly when dealing with the idiotic procedure of Broussais’ phlebotomy in chronic diseases.
The ” discharges and secretions brought on by nature left to herself (the apparent crises) in chronic diseases,” he characterises as ” merely palliative relief of short duration, which contributes little to a real cure, but rather aggravates the original internal disease by dissipating the energy and fluids of the body ” (“Organon “). He attacks Broussais with particular fierceness, although he allows him the credit of ” having opposed senseless mixing of several drugs in prescriptions and of having made an end of them in France.” His method of unlimited blood-letting he opposes as a method of curing, which will not effectively decrease the sufferings of patients and will not permanently prevent a more violent return of all their troubles. He had found the easier way ” of gradually appeasing more and more the patients’ sufferings at the expense of their life and finally of totally extinguish- ing sufferings and life—a method of curing, which unfortunately satisfied his shortsighted contemporaries ” (2l6). ” The gentlemen of the new hybrid sects,” the semi-homceopaths, are by no means spared these reproaches. Indeed, it is particularly to them, to whom the selection of the homceopathic medicine is too laborious or who will not rely on its therapeutic effect alone, that he speaks the truth so bluntly (2I7).
This resolute and unconditional rejection of phlebotomy, etc., was bound to lead to violent counter-attacks by the opposition. The battle was not always conducted in the fairest spirit. Is it very surprising that Hahnemann, the butt not merely of scientific disputations but also of savage scandals affecting his honour as a man and a physician, should often lose his sense of balance and (as in his lectures at Leipsic University) launch into unmeasured terms of castigation ? One reproach hurled at him was to the effect that he had tried to obtain relief for his wife in her last illness by blood-letting and that, similarly, he himself had recourse to the same measure. This libel was able to find credence even in homceopathic circles, who were all involved in the prevalent confusion. From the adversaries’ side reproaches and insults rained on him and his theory (2lS).
Even Hufeland, who had to confess that he had seen the completion of many successful and even extremely surprising cures with homoeopathy—chiefly in the case of chronic nervous diseases—makes the remark :
Their (homoeopathy’s) main tenet is the rejection of the two most important measures for saving life—blood-letting and emetics—which, it is well known, cannot be replaced.
A shrewd judge of homceopathv, Professor Riecke of Tubingen, thinks
” Homoeopathy commits in this case many sins of omission, allowing people to die for fear of shedding blood, whilst the allopath not infrequently kill in their lust for blood. . . .” But he hopes that ” in time the homoeopaths will return to the blood evacuations.”
They have not returned to them in spite of all the persecutions endured on that account. Summonses in court for not practising phlebotomy, such as Hornburg had to fight in Leipsic, Trinks and Wolf in Dresden and Baumgarten in Magdeburg, were not able to turn them from their advanced views. On the contrary, under the compelling force of homoeopathic examples, the apparently immovable faith in the wonders of phlebotomy, purgatives and emetics has been made to vacillate in the course of years by reason of the people’s apathy ; the more serious-minded and reflective physicians have been stimulated to research, the results of which have completely confirmed the assertions of Hahnemann and his pupils.
One of the first to be convinced from his own experiments of the uselessness of blood- letting was the famous Viennese physician, Dietl. In the years 1842-1846 he treated pneumonia patients in his hospital with and without phlebotomy. Of the former, 85 in number, he lost 17 by death (20 per cent.) ; of the latter, 175 all told, only 12 (7 per cent.) ! In spite of all attacks he had the courage to confess that he had arrived at this bloodless treatment of pneumonia through homoeopathy. And to-day ? To-day, phlebotomy, scarification, regular dosing with purgatives and emetics represent something of the past both for allopaths and for homoeopaths.
Until the end Hahnemann was attacked for his principles and not until much later times were he and his theories given their due regard.