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1750 THE SUMMER SESSION OF THE GENERAL MEDICAL COUNCIL.
or a play needs no explanation. We, who know the value ofmedical charities and their sore need of support, marvel atwhat we are too ready to think is the callousness of thosewho appear to demand amusement for themselves before theywill contribute to the funds of the .hospitals. The public isnot callous but rather uninstructed. If it were possible tomake the needs of charity as clear to a thoughtless worldas are the delights of a dance it is certain that many would
cheerfully give their money without asking for discount inthe shape of entertainment. But as it is not possible,wise people view with equanimity the accepted methods of
extracting subscriptions and are grateful to the leaders ofsociety for their labours on behalf of the sick poor.
The Summer Session of theGeneral Medical Council.
THE summer session of the General Medical Council was
a singularly uneventful one. The most important debateranged round the unfortunately strained relations betweenthe Council and the two great English medical corporations,and upon this subject we have already expressed our views.The rest of the session was largely taken up by the hearingof penal cases. These cases, as Sir WILLIAM TURNER fore-
shadowed in his opening address that they would be, were
unusually numerous and in many of them the characters ofthe medical men in question were seriously involved. As a
consequence the profession awaited with interest the
methods of the General Medical Council in dealing with
them, and the verdict of acquittal that most of those
implicated secured, either with or without modification,has not been hailed as quite satisfactory. Let us not be
understood as arguing that any particular accused medicalman has been able to retain his place on the Registerwhen he should have been removed from it ; to make
such a suggestion would be grossly unfair to all parties.For this reason we are unable to publish the communicationsthat we have received, or to do more than to quote generallythe impression that we know to have been created ; but it isuseless to disguise the fact that the sterile result of the
work of the Council as a penal body has given rise
to much adverse comment. Last week a correspondent,noting that certain charges of infamous conduct in a pro- ifessional respect" had been dismissed by the Council
as non-proven, called attention to the stigma that
has been affixed upon innocent people, and undoubtedlythis is a point of view worthy of consideration ; but it is
merely a side-result of the circumstances. No chargesare heard by the General Medical Council or preferredby either of the medical defence associations without
deliberation ; anonymous accusations are not attended
to. We have every sympathy with those gentlemenagainst whom charges are brought without being sus-
tained, but we cannot subscribe to the view that
such charges are, as a rule, made in a spirit either of
vindictiveness or hasty irresponsibility. The large propor-tion of non-proven verdicts that are found by the GeneralMedical Council in the penal cases that come before it
is due to the determination of the Council to convict onlyupon the most incontrovertible evidence. The members of
the Council do not form a legal tribunal, they are at a dis
advantage compared with a law court in taking evidence,and they possess bat one punishment for all professionalsins. The most shameful breach of honour or moralityand the most trivial and accidental lapse from the code of
professional ethics must, if punished, be punished alike byerasure from the Medical Register. The Council rightlydeclines to exercise its tremendous power save upon the
clearest grounds, for it recognises that removal from the
professional roll means the ruin of the sentenced man.
Strong suspicion of a practitioner’s methods may lead to a
perfectly legitimate accusation of him before the GeneralMedical Council and yet the Council may be right in,
acquitting him. The number of non-proven verdicts does
not connote in our minds any supineness on the part of theGeneral Medical Council; it only serves to remind us howunfortunate it is that the Medical Acts supply the Councilwith such clumsy machinery with which to arrange a penalcode. It is to be hoped that the short Bill now before-
Parliament, which provides for temporary removal from theRegister of the names of offenders, will soon become law
so that the Council may be able to attempt in some degreeto fit the punishment to the offence.
The Trinidad Epidemic.OUR readers will doubtless recall that some weeks ago 1
we directed attention to the singular conflict of opinionthat had arisen between the medical authorities of Trinidad
and Barbados respecting the outbreak in the former islandof an epidemic eruptive disorder which bore very markedresemblance to the outbreak of small-pox from which
Barbados has recently suffered, at great loss to her tradein consequence of quarantine restrictions. It will be re-
membered that llr. J. F. E. BRIDGER, who was familiar withthe character of the Barbados disorder, had been sent to
report on that of Trinidad and that the tenour of his reportwas to the effect that undoubtedly Trinidad was the seat of
small-pox, which was spreading through this land mainlybecause its true nature was being disregarded and patientswere being allowed to go about while still in an infectivestate. The profession in Trinidad had expressed its dis-
sent from Mr. BRIDGER’S conclusions and appeared to regardthe disease as something new, being largely influenced by themildness of its type. We endeavoured to reconcile these con-
flicting opinions and pointed out that for the last few yearsa similar mild eruptive varioloid disease had been extendingover Canada and the United States, and we considered thatfrom the epidemiological standpoint it was highly probablethat the disease, whatever it might be called, was the samein all these places. We even ventured to think that in view
of the grave interests involved it might be well if an autho-
ritative opinion by experts could be obtained by personalinvestigation of the Trinidad cases.
It is with a sense of relief which will be shared by all
nosologists, that we are now enabled to record a distinct
change in the views of the Trinidad authorities. We have
before us a copy of a leaflet issued by the medical officer of
health, headed I The Prevailing Epidemic : How to Prevent
1 THE LANCET, April 18th (p. 1121) and May 2nd (p. 1248), 1903.