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NOW IN PROGRESS THROUGH THE HOUSE OF COMMONS,
FOR“ BETTER REGULATING THE MEDICAL PROFESSION
AS FAR AS REGARDS APOTHECARIES;"
PROVING IT TO BE A MEASURE,
BEST SUITED TO THE PUBLIC CONVENIENCE,
AND MOST CONDUCIVE TO THE
PRESERVATION OF THE COMMUNITY,
EFFECTS OF EXISTING FRAUDS AND ABUSES.
BY ROBERT MASTERS KERRISON,
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons ; of the Society of Apothecaries ; Author of an Inquiry into the present State of the Medical Profession ;
Translator of Richerand's Physiology, fc.
The readiness of a British Parliament to provide for the wants and conveniences of the people, and the tenor of general equity in its proceedings, have long rendered it the admiration of Europe.
If a canalis to be dug for the advantage of a commercial company, or a bridge to be built for the improvement of a country town, a bill is carried into the House of Commons, its usefulness perceived, and it soon becomes an integral part of the laws of the land.
How much more important to the community must be the equitable and judicious arrangement of laws concerning the medical profession? These involve the dearest interests of every class of people, and yet, strange to tell! there exists no law to prevent bold and ignorant men from assum. ing the name, and attempting to perform the duties, of Apothecaries, nor any controlling power to hinder such men from trifling with the lives of his Majesty's subjects, in every part of England and Wales.
Every one, who is not in the profession, believes, that the Society of Apothecaries, (better known by the name of Apothecaries' Company,) can compel the unqualified to renounce their pretensions; but, it is not so. This Company acts under a charter granted by King James I. in 1616. It has a jurisdiction in London, and within seven miles, and that power can only be exercised over its own members, who form a small part of those actually in practice in London and its vicinity.
The Apothecaries, who had been carefully educated to the duties of their station, had long felt the degradation, which their fair claims to public confidence and respectability, as a body, sustained by the want of an authority, in proper hands, to inquire into the degree of qualification, and to approve, or reject, those who wish to devote their time to the serious charge of restoring health : for, it will be made apparent, not only that the middle and lower classes of people, which constitute the bulk of the community, are left to the sole care of Apothecaries, but that the opportunity has long existed for them to become fully qualified for the task.
It is now more than two years since a general meeting of Apothecaries and Surgeon-Apothecaries' was convened in London. A committee was chosen, and proceeded to deliberate on the best means of attaining their object. They made an explicit avowal of their intentions to the Royal Cole lege of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons, and the company of Apothecaries, but they met only with coldness, contemptuous silence, and indifference.
In consequence of the apathy of the legalised medical bodies, and the illiberal attempts which had been made to misrepresent the tendency of the Bill and the object of its promoters, the author of this little tract, having been nominated a member of the committee, considered it a duty to
* The term Surgeon-Apothecary is intended to designate those who practise as Apothecaries, and are also members of the Royal College of Surgeons. They are now the most numerous part of the profession in town
the profession and the public, to give a short account of the subject, and, in January last year, he published a small volume entitled “ An inquiry into the present state of the medical profession in England, containing an abstract of all the acts and charters granted to Physicians, Surgeons, and Apothecaries, and a comparative view of the profession in Scotland, Ireland, and on the Continent of Europe ; also a compendious account of its state amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans, tending to illustrate the urgent necessity of Legislative interference: "I
With the strongest impression of the necessity of the measure and the rectitude of their own intentions, the committee persevered in their endeavours to carry a Bill into the House of Commons for the appointment of a Board of Examiners to superintend professional affairs. They rested on the justice of their claims, and trusted to the discrimination of the Legislature to protect the public from the effects of existing frauds and abuses.
Soon after this period, the Apothecaries' company acknowledged the necessity of Legislative interference. The Royal College of Physicians senta communication to the committee of Surgeon-Apothecaries, to signify that they would not oppose the intended bill, if carried to Parliament by the Apothecaries' company, and if, previously, submitted to them for approval. The committee hailed these sentiments with satisfaction, and surrendered the management of the affair to a deputation from that body, reserving to themselves the right of watching the progress of the measure,
' A copy of the book, in boards, was given and forwarded to the residence of every member of the Houses of Lords and Commons, at the sole expense of the author, who, in evincing that costly proof of his sincerity for the success of the cause, offered to every one an opportunity of regulating his opinion, and only required concurrence, when convinced of the public benefit to be derived from the proposed measure.
for the benefit of the general profession by whom they were deputed.
The committee of the Apothecaries' company was chiefly formed of those members, who were in the Court of Assistants: frequent and amicable communications existed between them and the original Committee, whose prior resolutions and suggestions were almost universally adopted. A new Bill was drawn up, founded upon'the charter of James the first, with such modifications as the difference in the state of society and the progression of science seemed to require. The Royal College of Physicians was consulted, and its concurrence obtained for the various clauses before the bill was printed; but it has since appeared that this College intends to oppose the bill in progress.
It is to point out the beneficial tendency of this Bill, and the equity of its clauses towards Physicians, Apothecaries, and the public, that the author has again taken up his
pen, and he hopes to prove, that all opposition to their enact. ment must be founded on a system of illiberality and in: justice. No. 12., New Burlington Street,
March 21, 1815.
The Bill, to which these observations relate, has, since the pamphlet was first published, passed into a law.