American Medical Association
The Medical Monopoly
The practice of medicine may not be the world's oldest profession, but it is often seen to be operating on much the same principles. Not only does the client wonder if he is getting what he is paying for, but in many instances, he is dismayed to find that he has actually gotten something he had not bargained for. An examination of the record shows that the actual methods of medical practice have not changed that much through the eons.
The recently discovered Ebers papyrus shows that as early as 1600 B.C., more than nine hundred prescriptions were available to the physician, including opium as a pain-killing drug. As late as 1700, commonly used medications included cathartics such as senna, aloe, figs and castor oil. Intestinal worms were treated by aspidium roots (the male fern), pomegranate bark, or wormseed oil. In the East this was obtained from the flowers of santonin; in the Western Hemisphere it was pressed from the fruit and leaves of chenopodium. Analgesics or pain relievers were alcohol, hyoscyamus leaves, and opium. Hyoscyamus contains scopolamine, used to induce "twilight sleep'' in modern medicine. In the sixteenth century, Arabs used colchicum, a saffron derivative, for rheumatic pains and gout. Cinchona bark, the source of quinine, was used to treat malaria; chaulmoogra oil was used for leprosy, and ipecac for amoebic dysentery. Burned sponge at one time was used as a treatment for goitre; its content of iodine provided the cure. Midwives used ergot to contract the uterus.
Some two hundred years ago, the era of modern medicine was ushered in by Sir Humphry Davy's discovery of the anaesthetic properties of nitrous oxide. Michael Faraday discovered ether, and Wilhelm Surtner isolated morphine from opium.
Until the late nineteenth century, doctors practiced as free lance agents, which meant that they assumed all the risks of their decisions. The poor rarely encountered a doctor, as medical ministrations were generally confined to the rich and powerful. Curing a monarch could bring great rewards but failing to cure him could be a fatal mistake. Perhaps it was the awareness of the personal risks of this profession which gave rise to the plan for monopoly, to level out the risks and rewards among a chosen few. The attempts to build up this medical monopoly have now created a modern plague, while the resolve to maintain this monopoly has cost the public dearly in money and suffering.
Almost five centuries ago, one of the first attempts to set up this monopoly took place in England. The Act of 1511, signed into law by King Henry the Eighth, in England, made it an offence to practice physic or surgery without the approval of a panel of "experts." This Act was formalized in 1518 with the founding of the Royal College of Physicians. In 1540, barbers and surgeons were granted similar powers, when the King granted approval of their company. They immediately launched a campaign to eliminate the unauthorized practitioners who had served the poor. Apparently there is nothing new under the sun, as much the same campaign has long been underway in the United States. This harassment of doctors who served the poor caused such widespread suffering in England that King Henry the 8th was forced to enact the Quacks Charter in 1542. This Charter exempted the "unauthorized practitioners" andallowed them to continue their ministrations. No such charter has ever been granted in the United States, where a "quack" is not only an unauthorized practitioner, that is, one who has not been "approved" by the American Medical Association or one of the government agencies under its control, but he is also subject to immediate arrest. It is interesting that the chartering of quacks is not one of the features of English life which was passed on to its American colony.
In 1617, the Society of Apothecaries was formed in England. In 1832, the British Medical Association was chartered; this became the impetus for the forming of a similar association, the American Medical Association, in the United States. From its earliest inception, the American Medical Association has had one principal objective, attaining and defending a total monopoly of the practice of medicine in the United States. From its outset, the AMA made allopathy the basis of its practice. Allopathy was a type of medicine whose practitioners had received training in a recognized academic school of medicine, and who relied heavily on surgical procedures and the use of medications. The leaders of this brand of medicine had been trained in Germany. They were dedicated to the frequent use of bleeding and heavy doses of drugs. They were inimical to any form of medicine which had not proceeded from the academies and which did not follow standardized or orthodox procedures.
Allopathy set up an intense rivalry with the prevalent nineteenth school of medicine, the practice of homeopathy. This school was the creation of a doctor named Christian Hahnemann (1755-1843). It was based on his formula, "similibus cyrentur," like cures like. Homeopathy is of even greater significance to our time, because it works through the immune system, using nontoxic doses of substances which are similar to those causing the illness.