The Genius and Scope of Our Medical Work—No. 1

This timely address was given on April 26, 1949, upon assignment, at the Boulder Medical Council. At the close of the presentation the council voted to re­quest that it be brought out in printed form and sent to all ministers and physicians. The General Confer­ence Committee voted that it be published first in THE MINISTRY, and then in Pamphlet form. This journal earnestly urges the careful study of this important discussion—THE EDITOR.

By FRANCIS D. NICHOL, Editor of the Review and Herald

Protestant churches through the cen­turies have generally made one or the other of two very different approaches to the subject of bodily health. The majority have viewed the matter of medical care for the sick as simply a brand of good works in which the Christian should engage. Another and smaller wing of Protestantism have viewed the matter of bodily healing as of the essence of their re­ligion. This wing includes Christian Science and various faith-healing cults.

The first group confine themselves quite ex­clusively to coolly seientific methods in caring for the sick in various church-affiliated hos­pitals. The second group proceed in a fervent, religious manner to perform certain rituals and prayers. They do not invoke science; they are often hostile to it.

In contrast to both groups stands the Sev­enth-day Adventist Church. We believe we have a solemn duty, not 'simply to make sick people well, but to keep well people from be­coming sick. We hold firmly to religious faith with one hand and to scientific knowledge with the other. We believe in the supernatural and in a God who is solicitously interested in us. Hence, we invoke the aid of God. We hold cer­tain views regarding man and physical laws. Hence, we also invoke the aid of science.

I can think of at least eight reasons that prompt us to include a health doctrine as a part of our belief. These reasons are the foun­dation of any health work that we may carry on. I can here only summarize them.

1. We take literally the command that we should glorify God in our bodies.

2. We believe that man is composed of body, mind, and spirit. Or, to state ,the point nega­tively, we emphatically do not believe that man, the real man who is the object of God's solici­tude and redeeming power, is an airy entity imprisoned in the shell of a body and released at death. We call this our doctrine of the state of the dead, but it is also the basis for our doc­trine of the state of the living. From our con­ception of the nature of man must logically grow the conclusion that we should properly care for the body, along with the mind and the spirit. And because we believe that man is one complex whole, each part acting upon the other parts, there follows the further conclusion that to fail to give proper care to the body is to endanger both the mind and the spirit.

3. We believe that the laws of nature are part of the laws of God. From this follows the conclusion that any willful violation of natural law is resistance to the will and mind of God.

4. We believe that sickness and death are the end results of violations of the laws of God, moral and physical. We tie together in sorry sequence, theology, physiology, pathology.

5. We believe, in the words of Mrs. White, that "the moral powers are beclouded" through violations of the laws of health. That naturally follows from our belief in the threefold nature of man.

6. We believe that our health teachings must be placed in a religious setting as well as a scientific one ; that merely presenting to men the principles of healthful living, in terms of the scientific reasons for them, is not enough in itself to cause men to obey these principles.

7. We believe that the spirit of man is sus­ceptible to spiritual influences when the body is being cared for at a time of sickness—that when it is in the valley of the shadow men are often ready to follow the light.

8. We believe that there are certain thera­peutic procedures that we should stress if the best help is to be given to the sick. Obviously this belief would remain sterile if we func­tioned only as an exclusively theological move­ment and dealt with the doctrine of health only in the abstract.

The Source of Our Health Message

The next unique fact about our health pro­gram is this : It came to us largely by inspira­tion. I do not mean by this that all our tech­niques and procedures were revealed, but rather that there was revealed to us through the messenger of God wise counsel as to what was good and bad in the welter of contending medical claims in the nineteenth century. It is hardly open to debate that we would not have had a health program if it had not been for Mrs. White. She declared that this program should be carried on ( 1) by preaching and teaching—to those within the movement and to those without ; (2) by practicing, that is, by carrying out the health principles in medical institutions.

When Mrs. White first gave instruction on the subject of health, it went counter to com­mon beliefs and medical practices. This is illus­trated, first, in regard to the very idea of teach­ing the public health principles, or what we today describe as preventive medicine. It is hard for us, at this time, to realize that when our health message was first promoted there were no government health departments, no promotion of health education in schools or communities. Nor were our principles of pre­ventive medicine considered worthy of much attention.

For example, Mrs. White spoke of the im­portance of fresh air, but people shut the win­dows at night to keep out the bad night air. She spoke of healthy dress, but tight-fitting, dust-trailing fashions seemed wholly accept­able. She spoke of the harmfulness of certain habits, such as drinking and smoking, but no scientific voice could be heard in endorsement. She spoke of the value of abstemiousness as a vital feature of preventive medicine, but it sounded like an idle tale. Approved medical practice saw no necessary relationship between these and the maintenance of good health.

The second way in which Mrs. White's in­struction ran counter to common beliefs was in regard to the treatment of the sick. The thera­pies which she said should be emphasized were three. But none of the three had any standing in the eyes of medical men. Let me list them.

Three Distinctive Therapies

1. MENTAL HYGIENE. Mrs. White set forth the premise that the body and mind interact, that much of the illness of the body springs from illness of the mind, and that, because of this, much bodily ill-health is functional rather than organic. She declared that trust in God and a conscience void of offense were vital in mental hygiene.

With possible exceptions, doctors had little or no time for such ideas. There were men, like Mesmer, who gave us the word mesmerism, and who set forth new views about the mind, but he was frowned on by doctors and de­nounced by Mrs. White. There was nothing in her view of mental hygiene that savored of so-called mental healing or the occult. She held to religion with one hand and to physical laws with the other.

2. PHYSICAL THERAPY (particularly at that time hydrotherapy). The premise on which this therapy rests is that the body itself is the only real healing agency, and that physical therapy helps the body to fight disease. Mrs. White declared that this premise was correct, but it had no standing in medical practice. The doctors were busy purging and bleeding and administering powerful drugs to their patients. This reminds one of what the philosopher Bacon had earlier observed; namely, that there had been given to the doctors as well as to the clergy, the power of binding and loosing. There was a cynical saying in the nineteenth century that Saul had slain his thousands, but calomel. its tens of thousands.

3.DIET THERAPY. Mrs. White declared that what we eat has a most significant bearing on the health of body, mind, and spirit. She was most emphatic on this. She spoke out, for ex­ample, against certain foods and beverages, and against certain eating habits, such as over­eating. There were, at that time, stray indi­viduals here and there who set forth new ideas on diet and health, but their ideas were not ac­cepted by the medical profession. In general, doctors made sport of all such ideas. There were no persons known as dietitians. The idea that food should be considered significant from a therapeutic standpoint was not included in medical thinking.

But today, how different the picture looks ! And that is the next significant fact to ponder. The idea that the laity can and should be edu­cated in the field of preventive medicine is very much approved today. And our distinctive views on therapy, which were formerly con­sidered fanciful at best, and fanatical at worst, have acquired honorable standing—in fact, have come into unique prominence in the med­ical world.

Mental hygiene has become one of the im­portant branches of modern medicine. We nowhave what is known asphychosomatic medicine, that is, a branch of medicine which treats of the interaction of body and mind in terms of the health of the individual. It is common for medical men to talk about the mental basis of certain diseases, the most obvious illustra­tion perhaps being stomach ulcers.

Physical therapy is no longer dismissed with a sneering observation about hose and hot rags. Rather, it has now acquired the honorable title of physical medicine, and is a well-defined branch of the healing art. True, forward-look­ing medical leaders still deplore the failure to include physical therapy in any well-defined way in the curriculum of medical schools. But the status of physical medicine is firmly estab­lished.

In the field of diet therapy has come the most startling confirmations of all. In fact, medical leaders declare that in this area. is to be found perhaps the greatest hope for the health of the race. I remember what a Battle Creek news­paper columnist wrote when we were having Fall Council there one year. He said that we used to be called bran eaters and grass eaters by people who are now solicitous that their grandchildren shall have whole-wheat mush for breakfast and spinach for dinner.

A Study in Contrasts

An Adventist who lived through the early days of our health message, when it met with so much opposition and ridicule, would receive a certain pleasant surprise if he were resur­rected today. He would hardly be able to be­lieve his eyes as he read current medical lit­erature, and found amazing confirmation for the basic tenets on which our whole health-education and healing program are based. And, naturally, as he continued to rub the dust from his eyes he would begin to look for all the san­itariums that had been founded, and for a great host more. For we did found many sanitariums in America in the opening years of this cen­tury. But what would he find?

That brings us to the next significant fact in the story of our health message. Let us imagine that this resurrected man had ended his earthly days December 31, 1907, just forty years after the founding of our first sanitarium in Battle Creek, and half way along the eighty-year pe­riod to the time of our latest annual statistical figures on the Advent Movement. For North America, here is what the figures would reveal to him : At the end of 1907 we had 22 de­nominationally owned sanitariums, with a bed capacity of 1,342, and with 48 physicians employed. At the end of 1947 we had 16 de­nominationally owned sanitariums, with a bed capacity of 1,873, and with io8 physicians em­ployed. As to inpatients treated, the total was 6,605 for 1907, and 65,239 for 1947.

Note that the total of sanitariums has de­creased from 22 to 16 in forty years. Second, the bed capacity has increased from 1,324 to 1,873, hardly an impressive rise. Third, the employed physicians have increased from 48 to 108. All this time the North American mem­bership was multiplying fourfold, and denom­inational employees proportionately. Institu­tions other than sanitariums had greatly expanded.

The total of patients treated shows a tenfold increase. This fact, laid alongside that of the very small increase in bed capacity, is illumi­nating as to a trend in the kind of service of­fered by our sanitariums. After making every reasonable allowance for an increase because of better percentage of bed occupancy, we must explain most of the increase on the assumption that our sanitariums are doing much more of the hospital type of service, where the patient stays a few days and is gone. However, this provides little opportunity for the educational and spiritual influences to begin to take effect, and these are the prime reasons for establishing our sanitariums. I wonder how satisfying would be the results in an evangelistic cam­paign if the total attendance were ten times larger, but the average length of attendance, only a few days!

Again, the great increase in patient total in contrast to the small increase in doctors re­quires the conclusion that many of the patients must have been cared for by physicians not in the employ of the institution. If all these private physicians were active Seventh-day Adventists,. then the sanitarium influence was not offset. But not all the private physicians, by any means, were Seventh-day Adventists.

A Sanitarium Mortality Table

Another significant comparison is that thir­teen of the conference-supervised sanitariums of forty years ago are not operating today. I will list them : Atlanta, Mount Vernon, Grays­ville, Iowa. Kansas, Knowlton (Canada) Mad­ison, Nashville, Nebraska, North Yakima (Washington), Pennsylvania, Tri-City (Illi­nois), and Wabash Valley. These had a bed capacity of 542.*

Of the 16 sanitariums listed in 1947, to were operating in 1907, including Hinsdale, which was under semiprivate management. In the 40 years we have increased the bed capacity of these ten from 86o to 1,325. In other words, such growth as we have had in bed capacity—and that is one of the best comparative yard­sticks for sanitariums—has been largely in terms of expansion of the physical plants of al­ready existing institutions. In forty years' time we have built or bought a total of six new san­itariums in North America, but have let thir­teen die. It would seem that we have not made much headway toward the inspired goal of many small sanitariums in many places. The fact is that a great part of the population of North America does not come under the influ­ence of a Seventh-day Adventist sanitarium.

Forty years ago one of the major hindrances to starting denominational sanitariums was a shortage of doctors. We probably had not many more than 150 in America at that time, and about one third of these were on our payroll. Today we have added only about sixty more to the payroll in our sanitariums, though we have trained two thousand.

These and related facts would be immedi­ately evident to one of the pioneers if he were raised from his grave. And I think that as he studied the facts he would have reasonable ground for perplexity of mind. Indeed, the facts rather perplex and embarrass us at times. After we have worried with the problem for a time we like to dismiss it with the observation, Well, anyway, the majority of our physicians in private practice are good, loyal Seventh-day Adventists who are witnessing for God in their communities, and who give generously to the cause.

Now this statement is true, so obviously true that I should think our physicians in private practice would feel a little embarrassed that we ministerial brethren felt it necessary to make this statement. What these doctors do not real­ize is that, unconsciously, we make this state­ment, not because their loyalty and love are in question, but because our leadership and vision are under criticism.

However, the statement about our private doctors, though true, is quite irrelevant to the problem before us. What if the teachers we educated largely went into private teaching, or the ministerial graduates into private evange­lism, or the trained publishing men into private printing, or the colporteurs into private sell­ing? Would we think we had dismissed the grave problem inherent in this situation sim­ply by observing that these teachers, preachers, publishing men, and colporteurs loved God and this message, and gave liberally to its support?

How to Break the Logic

The only way to break the logic of this anal­ogy is by denying the analogy, that is, by con­tending that the medical work does not bear the same relation to the movement that these other callings do. Indeed ! Then I would ask, How do we interpret Mrs. White's statement that our medical work is a definite part of the third angel's message, the very right arm of that message, and countless other statements that certainly seem to affirm that our medical work is as much a part of the warp and woof of this Advent Movement as any other branch of the work?

If we do not affirm this, pray tell, what is the justification for so large an expenditure of money and man power on A medical college or on sanitariums ? If the medical work is not an integral part of our whole church program, then some sacrificial dollars have been gathered from our people on false pretenses. One of my most vivid memories is of Loma Linda more than forty years ago, when my father worked for twelve dollars a week to support a family, and made pledges to the building funds of the institution. I thank God for that memory. It helps to keep my thinking straight on this sub­ject.

But if we agree that the medical work should be considered an integral part of the movement, then we may invoke certain principles to guide this phase of our work toward the ideal goal. I think immediately of four principles that are of the very genius of the Advent Movement, and which certainly apply to the medical as well as to every other phase of our work :

1. Close integration, not simply in spirit, but organically. That is part of the secret of how a little people have been enabled to do a large work in the world.

2. Constant expansion, geographically, to reach an ever larger number of men and women.

3. Distinct separation from the world, to maintain our uniqueness.

4. Spiritual objectives. The worth of every activity that lays claim to denominational time or means is decided by whether it contributes directly to the objective of the movement and the making ready of a people prepared to meet their God.

Measured by these criteria, very particularly the first two, our medical work obviously falls short.

—To be continued in September

Note:

* Someone may wish to minimize the significance of this sanitarium mortality table by declaring that these now-defunct institutions were small, and thus could not be expected to live. This, to say the least, would be a very late explanation of their death ! The reason­ing here seems to be that because a certain minimum size is now needed to maintain efficiency and life, the death of any small sanitarium in earlier years may be explained, or explained away, simply by its smallness. But at the time these sanitariums closed their doors other explanations were offered! Further, several of these now-defunct sanitariums had a bed capacity of fifty or better, and one of them had one hundred beds. Even today fifty beds is considered sufficient to oper­ate a successful hospital!


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By FRANCIS D. NICHOL, Editor of the Review and Herald

August 1949

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