This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.

Explanatory Notes

'all sorts and conditions of men and women': there are prayers in the Church of England concerning 'all sorts and conditions of men'. (Book of Common Prayer, 1662, Morning or Evening Prayer)

'flesh is heir to': 'The Heartache and the thousand natural shocks / That flesh is heir to', Hamlet III.i.64-5.

The third illustration is damaged in the original. —— David Skilton

Decorated initial I

n writing of amateur doctors, I do not desire to include the hundreds of medical students who are allowed, partly by law and largely by custom, to learn the details of their profession at the expense of such patients as are compelled to be experimented on in hospitals and infirmaries. The idea of this kind of training is, from the student's point of view, admirable, but from that of the patient it is frequently most objectionable. Especially is this the case with 'out-patients,' who are, for the most part, treated by youthful aspirants for medical honours. I have heard much grumbling from many people on this subject, and some of them have gone so far as to attribute permanent injuries to the carelessness or inexperience of hospital students.

Old style medical student.

But this is outside the scope of my present article. Amateur doctors are a large and dangerous community and consist, of all sorts and conditions of men and women. They are the disciples of the patent medicine kings, and have a remedy in their minds or in their houses for all the evils flesh is heir to and would, 'on a pinch,' find a remedy for the newest complicated discovery in disease which to them would be superior in its action to the prescription of a qualified physician. The only amateur doctoring which is pretty certain not to result in harm is that of the mothers, who, in many cases, have a collection of simple and reliable remedies [xxxxxx] ordinary ailments. They often save [xxxxxx] the profess[sion xxxxxx] and not[xxxxxxx]event a [xxxxxx]ser[ious?xxxxx [x X] xxxxxxx] case fairly round, [XXXX] are invaluable allí[es?] and 'kitchen physic' has long been considered a valuable adjunct to the physician's treatment. But all amateur doctors are not so safe as the old-fashioned housewife, and there can be no doubt in the mind of the thinking and observant man that if there were no bungling amateur doctors, there would not be such a large collection of patent medicines. prepared and sold. There is the man who is troubled with insomnia. He never — or hardly ever — goes through a proper course of treatment, but instead flies to some patent remedy, which he takes with much success for a short time. So much is he struck with the temporary improvement that he begins to think that he is an authority on sleeplessness, and introduces the subject to his friends for the mere gratification of being able to pose as a man with an infallible remedy for the trouble. But after a time he finds his patent remedy fails to act as properly as of yore, and he is compelled to fly to other and stronger drugs to obtain cessation from wakefulness. This goes on, and the amateur doctor finds that he cannot sleep without chloral or some equivalent. It gradually begins to dawn upon him that the drugs he has taken and prescribed are accumulative, and that if he would not go out of his mind from perpetual insomnia he must go on taking them. At last, if he has not fallen a victim to his drugs and become a subject for discussion by a coroner's jury, he will be compelled to go to a recognized practitioner to have patched up the constitution which amateur doctoring and patent preparations have ruined

A victim to amateur doctoring.

Then there are the people who will indulge in medical 'pick-me-ups.' They — principally ladies – have something suggested to them by an amateur doctor, or a magazine article on 'Home Medicine,' and they find, perhaps, that it acts pleasantly on them when they are low-spirited or tired out after a long season's pleasure. Each lady has her own special fancy in this direction, and it is to her what brandy and soda are to the man who has — well, been out overnight.

The physician's friends.

Amateur doctors, male and female, are great on tonics, and I knew a man once who carried a small bottle of tonic pills in his pocket and took them at intervals. He never sat down to his meals without taking a pill, and I verily believe that one of the drawbacks of the next world to him will be the fact that he will be unable to take his tonic pills at intervals. The men who indulge too freely in spirituous liquors are all more or less given to amateur doctoring, and the medicines they take are as essential to their existence as the liquors the effects of which they counteract. There is no part of the human frame which is the subject of so much amateur doctoring as the liver, and I have often been tempted to fancy that liver complaint is frequently a sort of mild protest on the part of the organ against the ill-treatment it receives at the hands of the amateur doctor.

New style medical student.

Whatever evils may accrue from the treatment of the medical student, the 'primary,' passed assistant, or the inexperienced or careless, qualified practitioner, they are as nothing compared to the ill effects produced by the amateur doctor.

Personally, I am much inclined to attach much blame to the books which are published for the purpose of explaining to the non-medical public how to treat themselves. Admitted that the books only deal with common or simple cases they are yet apt — especially in the event of their hints proving successful — to inculcate a desire on the part of those they appeal to to try further experiments in the direction of amateur medicine.

I do not wish people to go to a doctor for every trivial ailment, but I do say to all my readers if you find anything going radically wrong consult a doctor, and do not let mock-modesty or want of knowledge lead you on to amateur doctoring. It is dangerous to the system and detrimental to the pocket.

Last modified 13 April 2022