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.
All honest and rational persons are competent to testify whether they feel sick, and whether they seem better, or believe themselves to have entirely recovered after being prayed for and anointed by Boardman, Simpson, or Cullis; but their testimony as to what disease they had, or whether they are entirely cured, is a different matter, and to have value must be scrutinized in every case by competent judges.
In general, diseases are internal or external. It is clear that no individual can know positively the nature of any internal disease that he has. The diagnosis of the most skilful physicians may be in error. Post-mortems in celebrated cases have often shown that there had been an entire misunderstanding of the malady. Hysteria can simulate every known complaint: paralysis, heart-disease, and the worst forms of fever and ague. Hypochondria, to which intelligent and highly educated persons of sedentary habits brooding over their sensations are liable, especially if they are accustomed to read medical works and accounts of diseases and of their treatment, will do the same. Dyspepsia has various forms, and indigestion can produce symptoms of oi'ganic heart-disease, while diseases of the liver have often been mistaken by eminent physicians for pulmonary consumption. Especially in women do the troubles to which they are most subject give rise to hysteria, in which condition they may firmly believe that they are afflicted with disease of the spine, of the heart, or indeed of all the organs. I heard an intelligent woman "testify" that she had "heart-disease, irritation of the spinal cord, and Bright's disease of the kidneys, and had suffered from them all for ten years." She certainly had some symptoms of all of them. Within eight years a "regular" physician died, the cause, as he supposed on the authority of several examinations, being consumption. A post-mortem showed his lungs sound, and his death to have been caused by diseases the result of the enormous quantities of food and stimulants he had taken to " fight off consumption." The object of these observations is simply to show that testimony that a person has been cured reflects no light upon the problem as to what he or she was cured of. if it was claimed to be an internal disease. The solemn assertion of a responsible person that he was cured of heart-disease, can prove only that the symptoms of what he thought was heart-disease have disappeared.
Also, in any state not accompanied with acute pain, testimony to an immediate cure is of no value unless the disease be of an external character and actually disappears before the eye of the witness. All other cures must have the test of time; hence testimony given on the spot, at the grave of Father Mathew, or at Lourdes, or at the camp-meeting at Old Orchard, or in the Tabernacle of Mr. Simpson, can prove merely that then and there the witness was not conscious of pain or weakness, or of the symptoms of the disease which he believed he had.
The foregoing observations relate to internal diseases, but it is by no means easy to determine what an external disease is. Tumors are often mistaken for cancers, and cancers are of different species— some incurable by any means known to the medical profession, others curable. It is by these differences that quack cancer-doctors thrive. When the patient has anything resembling cancer, they promptly apply some salve, and if the patient recovers he signs a certificate saying that he was cured of a cancer of a most terrible character which would have been fatal, in three months or six weeks; or when the quack himself writes the certificate for the patient to sign, which is generally the case, the time in which the cancer would have proved fatal may be reduced to a few days. There is also a difference in tumors: some under no circumstances cause death; others are liable to become as fatal as a malignant pustule.
In supposed injuries to the joints, the exact cause of the swelling is not always easily determined; and internal abscesses have sometimes been months in reaching a condition which would enable the most skilful physicians and surgeons to locate them, or decide positively their cause. The converse of this is true, that swellings have been supposed to be caused by abscesses, incisions made, and a totally different and comparatively harmless condition found. Hence it is by no means certain that an external disease is properly named. The patient and his attending physicians may be in serious error as to the exact character of what at a first glance it might be supposed easy to identify.
I have already spoken of the power of hysteria to simulate the symptoms of any internal disease. It may be new to some that it can produce very remarkable external developments. On the authority of Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, of this city, I give the following. Says Dr. Vincent: " I was told of a case at St. Luke's Hospital in this city: a woman with a swelling which was pronounced by the physicians to be an ovarian tumor, but which disappeared on the administration of ether, and was discovered to be merely the result of hysteria".
Consumption is a subject of painful interest to almost every family in the country. The peculiarity of this disease is that it advances and retreats. In the more common form there comes a time when what is commonly called softening of the tubercles takes place. The patient is then very ill; hectic fever with the succeeding chill occurs every day, and sometimes several times a day; night-sweats, profuse expectoration, and other evidences and causes of debility complicate the situation, and the end is thought to be not far off. To the surprise of the friends, in a few days he greatly improves. Night-sweats cease, the fever greatly diminishes or disappears, the cough lessens; he rejoices, perhaps resumes his business and reeeives congratulations. Whatever he had been tak ing now has the credit,—whether what his physician prescribed or hypophosphites, cod-liver oil, balsams, pectorals,expectorants, "compound oxygen," benzoic; when the fact is that the tubercles have softened. As foreign bodies they produced fever and other symptoms; they have been eliminated by coughing and other natural processes. Meanwhile others are forming which give no uneasiness except a slight increase of shortness of breath. When the second softening period comes the patient sinks lower than before; new remedies, of course, are tried, radical change of diet is made, but if death does not end the scene similar apparent recovery takes place. At either of these stages a visit to a grotto, the operations of " faith-healers," or a magnetic belt or pad, might seem to produce a great effect; but decline would occur at the periods of softening, and the patient afterward improve or sink beyond the possibility of recovery, if none of these things had been done.