This section is from the book "Faith - Healing. Christian Science And Kindred Phenomena", by James Monroe Buckley. Also available from Amazon: Faith-Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena.
If there were no other, a fatal stumbling-block in the way of the faith-healers is their failure in surgical cases. But they seize everything that could even point at extrahuman interference with the order of nature. The following is taken from the " Provincial Medical Journal" of Leicester and London, June 1, 1886, and is an illustration of the subject:
Another "wonderful cure" at the Bethshan. T. M. N., during a voyage from Liverpool to New York on board the steamship Helvetia, sustained a compound fracture of the left humerus at about the line of junction of the middle with the lower third. The injury was treated for a few days by tho mercantile surgeon. On his arrival at New York on December 29, 1883 (four days after the accident), he was transferred to a public hospital. He was at once treated, the fracture being fixed in a plaster-of-Paris dressing, and this mode of mechanical fixation was continued for three months, when the surgeon, perceiving no progress toward union, performed the operation of resetting the fractured ends. The arm and forearm were again put in plaster-of-Paris, and retained until his arrival in Liverpool, five months after the date of the injury. On Juno 10, 1884, he submitted his arm for my inspection, when on removal of the dressing I found there was no attempt at repair, and that the cutaneous wound pertaining to the operation had not healed. The method of treatment I pursued was the following: The forearm was first slung from the neck by its wrist; the ulcer was attended to, and an area inclusive of the fracture partially strangulated by means of india-rubber bands. This was continued for three months, but without appreciable result. I therefore, in addition to this treatment, percussed the site of fracture every three weeks. Four months passed, and yet no change. After seven months the ulceration was healed, and the limb slung as before, partially strangulated and percussed monthly, but, in addition, maintained well fixed by a splint, and carefully readjusted on the occasion when percussion was employed. At length I found evidence that repair was progressing, for at this date, December, 1885, it required some force to spring the connection. I now knew it could only be a question of a few weeks for consolidation to bo complete, but thought it wise for some little time to leave the arm protected, lest rough usage should destroy the good attained. However, the patient suddenly disappeared, and on the K5th of April I received the following interesting document:
" No. 2 Woodhouse St., Walton Road, "Monday, April 12th. "Dear Sir: I trust after a very careful perusal of the few following words I may retain the same share of your favorable esteem as previously, and that you will not think too hardly of me because, although I have done a deed which you would not sanction, and which was against your injunctions. Still, I must write and let you know all about it, because I know you have been so kind to me from a purely disinterested motive. I daro say you remember me mentioning the 'faith-healing' somo time ago, and to which you remarked that ' it would do no harm to try it, but that you thought I should require mighty faith.'
"Well, I have tried it, and I am sure that you will be glad to hear that my arm is not only in my sleeve, but in actual use, and has been for the past three weeks. The pain I bore after the last beating was something dreadful, and being in great trouble at my lodgings at the time, I was downhearted. I was thrown out of my lodgings, and being quite destitute, I reasoned in myself, and came to the conclusion that if I really asked God to make it better right away he would, and I was told that if I would do away writh all means and leave it to him, it would be all right. So I just took off all your bandages and splint, and put it in my sleeve. I have now the use of my arm, and it is just the same as my right one — just as strong. Several times I called at your house when on my way to the Bethshan, George's street, but Dr. Gormley slammed mo out, and therefore I did not like to come again.
" I cannot describe how thankful I am, doctor, for your past kindness and goodness to me, and that is one reason I have not seen you. I know you will be glad to seo me with it in my sleeve. Yours very truly,
" Tom M. Nicholson.
" Dr. H. O. Thomas.
"P. S.— Any communication will reach mo if addressed to me at tho above, should you desire to write".
There is very little to add to this case. ... It affords, however, a typical instance of the way a Bethshan thrives. The surgeon tells a patient all but recovered to be cautious lest the results of months of care be nullified, and " fools rush in " and tell him "to dispense with means and all will be well." In this particular instance the result was harmless, but it would be interesting to inquire howr many poor deluded victims are consigned to irremediable defects by an ignorant and fanatical display which is a satire upon our civilization.
In this country the case that has been most frequently quoted is narrated by the late W.E. Boardman, who had the story from Dr. Cullis and gives it thus:
The children were jumping off from a bench, and my little son fell and broke both bones of Jus arm below the elbow. My brother, who is a professor of surgery in the college at Chicago, was here on a visit. I asked him to set and dress the arm. He did so ; put it in splints, bandages, and in a sling. The dear child was very patient, and went about without a murmur all that day. The next morning he came to me and said, "Dear papa, please take off these things." "Oh, no, my son ; you will have to wear these five or six weeks before it will be well!" "Why, papa, it is well." "Oh, no, my dear child; that is impossible!" "Why, papa, you believe in prayer, don't you?" "You know I do, my son." "Well, last night when I went to bed, it hurt me very bad, and I asked Jesus to make it well." I did not like to say a word to chill his faith. A happy thought came. I said, " My dear child, your uncle put the things on, and if they are taken off, he must do it." Away he went to his uncle, who told him he would have to go as he wras six or seven weeks, and must be very patient; and when the little fellow told him that Jesus had made him well, he said, " Pooh ! pooh ! nonsense!" and sent him away. The next morning the poor boy came to me and pleaded with so much sincerity and confidence, that I more than half believed, and went to my brother and said, " Had you not better undo his arm and let him see for himself? Then ho will be satisfied. If you do not, I fear, though he is very obedient, he may be tempted to undo it himself, and then it may be worse for him." My brother yielded, took off the bandages and the splints, and exclaimed, "It is well, absolutely well!" and hastened to the door to keep from fainting.
Afterward the Rev. Mr. Gordon introduced the above alleged occurrence into his " Mystery of Healing".
This case was thoroughly investigated by Dr. James Henry Lloyd, of the University of Pennsylvania, and in the "Medical Record" for March 27, 1886, Dr. Lloyd published a letter from the very child, who has become a physician.
Dear Sir: The case you cite, when robbed of all its sensational surroundings, is as follows: The child was a spoiled youngster who would have his own way; and when he had a green stick fracture of the forearm, and. after having had it bandaged for several days, concluded he would much prefer going without a splint, to please the spoiled child the splint was removed, and the arm carefully adjusted in a sling. As a matter of course, tho bone soon united, as is customary in children, and being only partially broken, of course all the sooner. This is the miracle.
Some nurse or crank or religious enthusiast, ignorant of matters physiological and histological, evidently started tho story, and unfortunately my name — for I am the party — is being circulated in circles of faith-curites, and is given the sort of notoriety I do not crave.......
Very respectfully yours,
Carl H. Reed.