Fillers One hundred years ago

The nemesis of quackery

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 14 October 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:940

The death of Dr. Leslie E. Keeley, the inventor of the “gold cure” for inebriety, was recently mentioned in the BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL. Dr. West Hughes, of Los Angeles, California, states in the New York Medical News of March 10th that he was called to attend Dr. Keeley just before his death. “As I walked into the house,” he says, “he gave a few gasps and fell back dead. He was surrounded by ‘Christian Scientists’, who had been in constant attendance for several days, treating him for an attack of the grip. I was informed that he had been under the same scientific (?) treatment for several years, being a sufferer from chronic heart disease.” Surely this is a melancholy instance of a man's intellect becoming subdued to that it worked in, like the dyer's hand. Dr. Keeley was for many years an orthodox practitioner of medicine. Then he left the broad highway of legitimate practice, and took a short cut to fortune by a secret path. He was a man of keen intelligence, and, it might have been thought, had sufficient scientific knowledge to recognise humbug when it came before him. Yet here we find him fallen, among quacks, and on his deathbed accepting the ministrations of the most foolish and futile of all pretenders to the power of healing. Morison died swallowing his own pills, but then Morison was not an educated physician. Quackery is in its effect opposite to mercy—it curses him that gives as well as him that takes. No man can deal in it without suffering impairment, not only of his moral, but of his intellectual sense. The manner of Dr. Keeley's death was a sad illustration of the Nemesis of quackery. (BMJ 1900;i:921.)

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