« PreviousContinue »
without his having to hold an inquest on a poor infant, put out of life, in some cases perhaps purposely, but in the great majority of instances by over-fondness of the mother in covering the little one's face up for warmth sake. The majority of women treat their tender little ones just as if they were so many hot rolls, smothering them in blankets, forgetting that the breath of life in their fragile frames is but too easily extinguished, and that they have not the power to struggle as older children would against the covering that is poisoning them with their own foul breath.
Our hard day's work terminated with the case of an old sailor, who, after braving all the terrors of the ocean, came off a long voyage to die of diseased heart in his own bed. The body lay in a small dark room, next to the common living-room, and the stench of decomposition was so great that the jury started back in dismay when the door was opened for the purpose of his being identified. The practice adopted in this country, and in this country only, we believe, of allowing the dead to remain in the very apartments of the living, is certainly most revolting; and we hope the time is not far distant when the public will seek for the establishment of perfectly ventilated reception-rooms for the dead, previous to interment. Those who have witnessed the arrangements in Munich, Frankfort, and other places abroad, for separating the lifeless clay from the living for the short time previous to burial, must see how we are sinning against the commonest hygienic rules, as well as against decency itself, in tolerating our national habit of hugging the dead until we are compelled to relinquish them by their very offensiveness.
Walking home, I wondered how the coroner lived, moved, and had his being without being terrified lest at every turn some little unforeseen occurrence might bring a brother coroner to sit upon him. Having seen how lightly accidents occurred, it was days before I could get the thought out of my mind, that we are continually within an ace of our life.
In all probability, however, the coroner is the last person in existence to feel these foolish fancies, as death in his experience comes from so many and from such conflicting causes, that the one balances the other, and thus keeps his fears in a happy equilibrium.
We are not all coroners, however, and I must confess that for days afterwards I looked much shyer at a crowded crossing than was my wont, and took especial good care to walk outside of ladders.
If, however, accidents take place according to a regular law, and we all go out in the morning with a hundred-thousandth chance of breaking our legs, a five hundred-thousandth chance of being drowned, or say a sixty-thousandth expectation of stepping upon a piece of orange-peel and fracturing our skull, we may at least be less nervous about these matters, for, do what we will, the statistician, in estimating the number of annual accidents and offences, claims a certain right in us which we cannot avoid or dispute.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been of late greatly perturbed with respect to the vivisections practised on horses in the veterinary schools of France. This is no matter for surprise, as the public generally have been moved with disgust by the recitals given in the public papers some time since of the experiments performed upon living horses in the veterinary colleges of France for the sake of affording instruction to the pupils. No doubt the society was quite right in the representations it made to the Emperor upon the subject, and we are glad to see that its remonstrances are likely to lead to the suppression of the unnecessary cruelty inflicted for instruction sake across the water.
Not content with this success, however, it has commenced a crusade against the performance of vivisection in any form, and its members class any operation which may lead to the most important results in surgery calculated to relieve human suffering in the same category as the maltreatment of a donkey.
It is extraordinary what absurd speeches excited philanthropists will make when they meet together, and mutually alarm each other by exaggerated statements.
We have now before us the Report of the International Congress held by this society at the Crystal Palace last August, and more audacious misstatements of fact than are contained in that Report we certainly never read. Really it would appear from them that surgeons in this country are a set of demons who take delight in cutting up living creatures without aim or purpose.
The value of vivisections is utterly denied, and a reverend prebendary gravely affirms that the living body can give no response to the interrogatories of the scientific surgeon which cannot as easily be gathered from the dead subject!
Another gentleman asserts that no discovery of any moment has arisen from the practice of vivisection, and there was an almost unanimous chorus in favour of putting down the practice of “torturing living animals,” except in certain special cases and under certain conditions, of which we presume a committee of the society would wish to elect itself the judge.
Imagine John Hunter having to pause in the pursuit of some subtle investigation into the ways of life, in order to ask permission of a conclave of old ladies of both sexes that he might try an experiment upon a mouse !
We think it would be well if the members of the Congress, before denouncing the practice of vivisection in the terms they did, had taken the trouble to inquire respecting the frequency and manner in which it is performed in England. To listen to the excited speakers, one would think that it was the custom of surgical professors to “cut up alive” animals in the class-room for the edification of the students. Now, it is scarcely necessary for us to state that vivisections are never performed in the dissecting-room or theatre. Certainly, during the five years of our acquaintance with one of the largest hospitals in London, not one experiment of any kind was performed on a living animal. Vivisection, when it is performed, is done by the physiologist in his own study. The tortures endured by the animal whilst under the process of " dissection” exist only in the imagination of the speakers.
Common sense should have told them, that whilst we have such a thing as chloroform, an operator would not be likely to pursue his investigations amid the frantic struggles of an agonized animal. As for the “cutting and carving,” and the "dissection,” said to be carried on without a definite purpose, it is a simple calumny. The division of a nerve, the tying of an artery, the section of a muscle, in the vast majority of cases, are all the operations required for the elucidation of the problem of life the physiologist may be seeking to solve. Any surgeon who should aimlessly mutilate any living creature would instantly lose caste among his brethren, who, we would beg to remind the members of this society, are not Feejee Islanders or subjects of the King of Dahomey, but educated English gentlemen.
We really scarcely know how to deal with the extraordinary statement that vivisection can teach nothing