"Dare Doctor's Think?" 

Verbatim Report of the
Great Meeting held at Queen's Hall, London,
Fri, Feb 6, 1925

In connection with the Rex versus Hadwen manslaughter charge

   Dr. HADWEN, on rising to speak, received a great ovation,which lasted some moments. He said: Mr. Chairman and friends--I cannot thank youin words for such a reception as you have given me. In fact, your sympathy throughoutthe whole of my trial has been such as has supported me when everything else seemeddead against me. I must also thank the vast numbers who wrote me kind letters ofsympathy and congratulation, telegrams and cablegrams galore. I tried again and againto reply to them, but the thousands that lay before me took all the heart out ofme. I hope a great many here to-night who have written or wired me will accept myvery deepest thanks for all their kindness throughout the whole of that period.

   I have passed through some strange experiences in the courseof a long and chequered life, but I never expected to reach a stage in my careerwhen I should stand as a criminal at the bar of an English Court of Justice to answerthe charge of having "feloniously killed and slain" an innocent littlepatient of 10 years old. (Shame.)

   This grave charge rested primarily upon the fact that I hadneglected to look for a particular kind of "microscopic bug" (as Americanscientists call it) which was subsequently found in a swab taken from the child’sthroat; and secondly, because I had declined to inject into my little patient’s bodya certain nostrum by the name of antitoxin, which is supposed to scotch the microscopicbug when it has been discovered. (Laughter.)

   I viewed this attack upon my treatment of my patient as a grossinterference with medical right and liberty (applause), and, as a fully qualifiedmedical man, possessing qualifications and experience at least equal to those possessedby any of the men who were responsible for this persecution, I repudiated this onslaughtupon my intelligence and reputation and declined to submit to such unwarrantabledictation. (Hear, hear.)

   The whole thing resolved itself into the question as to whethera medical man of the 20th century had a right to think for himself.

   The slogan "Dare Doctors Think," which has been displayedupon the London hoardings for the last two or three weeks was not, however, chosenby me. It was chosen by those who, rightly or wrongly, had come to the conclusionthat the position in which I found myself recently, namely, that of a prisoner inthe dock, with a charge of manslaughter hanging over my head, was not because ofanything I had done or of anything I had not done, but was because of the opinionsI hold and which I have never hesitated to openly express. (Loud applause.)

   It is quite certain that there would have been no trial inasmuchas there would have been no inquest, had I not been so unfortunate as to estrangea fellow practitioner by the exposure I made of the ridiculous smallpox scare inGloucester the year before. If I had refused to think for myself, but had, instead,bowed down to the Ministry of Health and had joined in the scaremongering along with27 other doctors who obliged the Whitehall emissaries by signing a manifesto to theeffect that there was smallpox in Gloucester and the only remedy was vaccination,it is quite certain that the death of little Nellie Burnham would have passed unnoticed.I had dared to think and act for myself and that was the brunt of my offence. (Applause.)

   This was not the first time I have had to take my stand in thecause of personal liberty. Nor was it the first time that I had been accused of wilfullymaking a false diagnosis of the illness of a patient to suit my views, but on thefirst occasion when that happened I was able to clear my character by bringing anaction for libel against my medical traducer. On this occasion I was not given theopportunity. I was charged with manslaughter instead. Nearly half a century ago,I was hauled again and again before the Magisterial Bench because I declined to allowmy children ‘s pure blood to be polluted with the loathsome excretion from the soresof a diseased beast. (Cheers.) At that time men were led handcuffed to prison throughthe public streets, their goods were sold in the public market place to pay the finesinflicted upon them; mothers who had lost their husbands were sent to prison fora month at a time because they dared to protect their children from this wholesaleblood-poisonmg: conscience was treated with derision, and no punishment was thoughttoo severe to inflict upon respectable, home loving, thinking men and women--aye,the very salt of the community--by the authorities of the day, who bowed, as theystill do, to the medical hierarchy which held sway over the bodies of the people.

   We broke down that tyranny. (Applause.) We secured the additionof the Conscientious Objectors’ Clause to the Vaccination Acts--that was a compromise--weshall not rest until that indignity to liberty-loving parents is swept away and vaccinatedand unvaccinated stand equal before the law. (Renewed applause.) Again and againit has been sought by the bureaucrats of Whitehall and their obsequious public officialsthroughout the country to reinstate the hydraheaded monster of vaccination in itsold place, but the attempt has failed, and now, after my 50 years of struggle againstthese iniquities and superstitions, I have been forced to appear before an antiquatedCoroner’s Court, presided over by a young and very cocksure Coroner; then beforea Bench of my fellow Magistrates, and, after being informed by a Grand Jury thata true bill of manslaughter was found against me, I had to take my place in the dockas a common felon whilst the best Counsel of the day spent three days in debatingwhether I ought or ought not to be sent to gaol for exercising a medical man‘s rightto do the best he could for his patient in accordance with his knowledge and experience.(Shame.)


   The case of the opposition was that my diagnosis and treatmentwere all wrong. But it is clear that if they were right there must have been themost remarkable combination of circumstances arranged by a special Providence togive them a case against me.

   It will be remembered that the doctor who was called in whenthe child was dying--the very doctor who had used such strong and vulgar languageconcerning my views on the alleged smallpox epidemic--declared that he found diphtheriticmembrane--which is the characteristic sign of diphtheria--stretching right acrossthe throat. It certainly was not there when I examined the throat in the morning,nor was it there when the post-mortem examination took place two days later. Buthad it been there when this doctor professed to see it, it must have been there duringno less than 11 days. This must have been a very special arrangement by a very specialProvidence acting on behalf of my enemies, for I have never seen, and I doubt ifany of the many medical men on this platform to-night have ever seen, a membranepersist for more than six or seven days at the very outside. As a rule, in four days,it has come away bit by bit and all but disappeared.

   To say the least of it, it was a rarity of a very exceptionaltype. (Laughter.)

   Next we come to the pneumonia which my little patient had contractedby going downstairs in her bare feet and nightdress and walking over a tiled passageon a line with the street door into the scullery where she stood on a floor of bluebricks and drew some cold water from the tap to assuage her thirst. The doctor whoconducted the post-mortem examination admitted that he found lobar pneumonia, anddeclared that it was the kind of pneumonia which follows a chill, of ‘‘not more thantwo or three days duration," which coincided with the date when she had so exposedherself, and that it was not the kind which arises out of diphtheria. Butafter he had come in contact with the Home Office Medical Adviser, he weakened uponthe point and subsequently discovered that it could in very rare exceptionsfollow diphtheria--a rarity of less than one per cent., Sir William Willcox subsequentlystated. This was an additional curiosity--a second rarity of a very extraordinarytype. (Laughter.) But Sir William Wilicox, the special medical adviser of the HomeOffice, who was out to give me no quarter upon any point or under any circumstances,denied flatly that it was lobar pneumonia--although he had never seen the child,dead or alive. He declared it was lobular pneumonia--the kind which arisesdirectly from diphtheria, (for he had to push the diptheria theory for allit was worth, in order to condemn me for neither taking a swab nor giving antitoxin),but instead of the consolidation being in patches as lobular pneumonia should be,he declared it had taken such a severe form that the patches had all run togetherand the lung had become solid as in the lobar variety. That was a remarkable explanationfrom a man who had never set eyes on it. "But," said he, "I admitit is very rare." (Laughter.)


   This was the third startling exception and a rarity such asI have never seen, nor do I believe that any experienced medical man in this hallto-night has ever witnessed it.

   But the curious fact existed that the pneumonia was confinedto only one lung--which is the characteristic of lobar pneumonia--andthis undoubtedly considerably nonplussed Sir William Willcox, for in lobular pneumoniaboth lungs are invariably affected. Sir William Willcox, however, was quiteready even for this emergency. In very, very rare cases, said he, lobularpneumonia, might affect only one lung; even though the attack were as severeas he described, which to any medical man of practical experience would be deemedan utter impossibility. (Hear, hear.)

   Did ever you hear, in all the experience of the whole medicalprofession since the days of Hippocrates, such a marvellous combination of exceptionsand rarities gathered together in one little body, all so carefully arranged by Providencefor the special purpose of convicting a heterodox medical practitioner of manslaughter?(Laughter.)

   It was solely upon this marvellous combination of the greatestrarities and curiosities that the medical witnesses depended for their case againstme.

   Now this precious membrane, so facetiously referred to by Lt.-Col.Donegan, played the most important part in the trial. My chief opponent declaredthe mouth was "full of it" when he first examined the throat by the lightof an electric lamp about an hour before the little one died, and the question ofquestions was: what had become of it? My contention was that all he saw was someclotted milk which he had mistaken for membrane, as many a medical man had done beforehim.


   Still, if there, what had become of it? For the little one wassurrounded to the time of its death by friends who declared at the inquest that thechild had neither vomited nor choked; nor was it swallowed, for no membrane was foundin the stomach.

   Mrs. Burnham, the mother, was greatly exercised upon this point,and so were the medical witnesses. And realising, apparently, after the first dayof the Coroner’s inquest, how necessary it was that that membrane should he discovered,she announced a month later that when she was washing the daughter’s clothing afterthe death, she found it lying among the soap-suds at the bottom of the bath! (Laughter.)It was circular in shape, she averred, all in one solid piece of about three inchesin diameter and half-an-inch thick. (Renewed laughter.) And as the prosecution weremost serious upon this point, I presume it was believed by them and their medicalsupporters with the same touching degree of faith that they placed in antitoxin.(Laughter).

   Of all the combined rarities this, perhaps, was the most remarkableof all. It is a great pity that scientific experimentation was not instituted toshow its possibility. Sir William Willcox has told us that he dropped poison intoa cat’s eye in order to prove something in the Crippen case, and we have lately seenin America that in order to ascertain whether a woman had deliberately got into afurnace feet first in order to commit suicide, two live guinea-pigs were thrown bya vivisector into a furnace whilst legal gentlemen stood outside with watches intheir hands calmly calculating how long it took before the poor little frantic, screaming,roasting creatures were slowly done to death. It ought not to have been beyond thecapability of an expert vivisector like Sir William Willcox to have devised somegreat scientific experiment by which to check this comical story of membrane in thebath. (Hear, hear.)

   But the doctor who conducted the post-mortem examination hadhis own theory about that precious membrane. He found it--a piece three inchesby one--on the top of the lung! so that, putting the two samples together,there must have been a rare collection of it in that small throat, such as defiedthe accounts of all time. The quantity was more suited to the throat of an elephant.(Laughter.) He thought it must have slipped down from the throat just before thechild died. But this again would have to be a rarity such as is unheard of in medicalhistory. Who ever heard of a diphtheritic membrane either vomited in one huge pieceor slipping down the windpipe like a bear down a greasy pole?

   This wonderful membrane was described by the mother on differentoccasions as looking like "a piece of tissue paper"; like "a yellowsponge," and like "a piece of India-rubber about half-an-inch thick,"and all the medical witnesses for the prosecution listened open-mouthed without asmile upon their faces! (Laughter.)

   You will thus see that the special Providence of the prosecutionhad arranged for them the most marvellous combination of rarities in one little bodythat had ever entered into the mind of man to conceive. The jury, however, who, fortunately,were not men and women of science, arrived at the commonsense conclusion that althoughmine was only one solitary voice against 12, my diagnosis of a simple sore throat,followed by pneumonia contracted through a chill, was much more reasonable than anaggregation of miracles and impossibilities. (Applause.)

   I have been told that medical men are amazed at the boldnesswith which I enunciated my views at the trial. It was evident that the Judge himselfwas greatly astonished at my not following the fads of the hour. He looked upon meas very old-fashioned and asked me if I were not prepared to progress with the times.(Laughter.) I told him I was, but that I looked upon Pasteurism and all its superstitionsas a retrograde movement--it was like the go-aheadism of the lobster, a progressionbackwards. (Laughter and loud applause.) It is the old-fashioned medical man whobelieves in Jenner and vaccination and the outcome of all the legendary nonsenserepresented by vaccines and serums and inoculations of every description. (Hear,hear.) I once believed in Jenner; I once believed in Pasteur. I believed in vaccination.I believed in vivisection. But I changed my views as the result of hard thinking.(Hear, hear.) I belong to the new fashion and not to the old, antiquated fashionof my medical opponents. (Laughter.)

   Why is it that medical men for the most part follow the fashionof the day? Is it that they dare not think?

   Are they like Sidney Smith ‘s old lady who said she never readthe other side of a subject in case she might be prejudiced? I know one of the mosteminent medical men of the present day, perhaps the most eminent medical manin his particular line, who, after he became converted to anti-vaccination, was unableto fill a lecture hall. Students were not encouraged to go and hear him. A man iseminent as long as he is orthodox. When he begins to think for himself he becomesa crank. (hear, hear, and laughter.) The only way to remedy this state of thingsis to have more cranks, so that the man who is boycotted and persecuted shall nothave to plough a lonely furrow. (Applause.)

   It might be supposed that the very unscientific nature of modernmedical treatment would have been sufficient to open the eyes of tile understandingto its folly.

   First look at the method. Today, the whole scheme is inoculationfor everything. I say that that in itself is unscientific. Nature has givenus a covering of skin for the protection of the body, whose organs are vested withthe power of excretion only. The skin as a whole is the largest excretory organ ofthe body, in which are situated millions of excretory glands for the purpose of carryingoff the waste material of the system: the thought of its being a receptive organis opposed entirely to the character of its structure. The modern system does violenceto Nature ‘s law and teaching; it ignores the only aperture which Nature has providedfor the entrance of solids or liquids into the system; it ignores the only numerousand complicated workshops ranged in association with the alimentary canal, placedthere to prepare everything that enters by the mouth for assimilation and absorption,and deliberately punctures this protecting organ and forces drugs–many of them ofthe most filthy description–directly into the life blood, the results of which cannotpossibly be gauged. Frequently, it ends in sudden death. Even the injection of plainwater by this unscientific method has proved fatal In its very inception the systemof inoculation by the skin is unscientific and false. (Cheers.) If medical men wouldonly think for five minutes as to this method of inoculation, the whole systemwould be condemned and ended. (Hear, hear.)

   Then as to what is injected: Perhaps one of the most amusingepisodes in the whole trial was when the Judge asked Sir William Willcox: "Tellme, what is antitoxin?" The look of surprise on his Lordship’s face was a studyas Sir William Willcox unfolded the weird romance. "It is made," he said,"by inoculating a horse." His Lordship put down his pen and turned fullround to look into the face of the doughty knight, and repeated in astonishment andalmost awe, "Into a horse!" (Laughter.) "Yes, my lord," proceededSir William jauntily, "by inoculating a horse with the poison of diphtheria;and by so doing the horse develops protection, and after the horse has been protectedby several doses of the poison, the horse’s blood is taken." Again his Lordshipstopped writing and turned found and seemed to mutter "horse’s blood!"(Laughter.) But Sir William unconcernedly proceeded, "and the serum--a straw-coloured,clear liquid, separates, and it is that serum which is the antitoxin, and it is thatwhich is injected into the patient suffering from diphtheria." The judge lookedfrom counsel to counsel in almost bewilderment! (Laughter.) He must have fanciedhimself back in Shakespeare’s day, looking in wonderment at the witches’ cauldron.(Renewed laughter.) As I described it to his Lordship afterwards, it is "poisonedhorse blood"--poisoned by the injection of so-called diphtheria germs.

   The medical man does not think--he dare not--or he would seeat a glance the superstition wrapped up in all this unscientific absurdity. (Cheers.)


   It is the great commercial manufacturing firms who are providingthe brains for the medical man of to-day. (Applause and laughter.) We are delugedwith circulars of ready-made medicines for every ailment under the sun. There neverwas a day when a medical man had less need for the use of his brains than he hasat the present time. The commercial firms do all the thinking for him. (Hear, hear.)With a pocket syringe and a case of concentrated tabloids he can go forth a veritablemedical Don Quixote to do battle with every imaginary foe. (Laughter.)

   I said "imaginary," for what are the foes to-day?In the old days medical men fought against conditions of disease, to-day the fightis against germs--"a germ is a disease and a disease is a germ." What wasall the fight at my trial about? As to whether my little patient had diphtheria.She never had a solitary sign of diphtheria from first to last, but they found thegerm--and that was sufficient to charge a man with manslaughter although this germcan be found in healthy throats, in every kind of sore throat and in lifeless objects.

   The modern germ theory of disease, upon which the charge againstme was based, was formulated by M. Pasteur, a French chemist. It was an evolutionof the folklore of the Gloucestershire dairy-maids which was popularized by EdwardJenner. This in turn was the outcome of the weird practice of inoculation commonamong Turkish peasants a couple of centuries ago--a practice which had itself beenderived from a Hindu smallpox superstition which goes back to the misty era of pastages when invisible devils and hobgoblins and wrathful gods and goddesses or witchesand the "evil eye" were supposed to be the originators of every human disease.The germ theory is the most old-fashioned tradition of the heathen world. (applauseand laughter.)

   This craze for finding the germ origin of every disease is wellillustrated in the case of swine fever. Its origin has been attributed to no lessthan 15 germs in succession, every one of them proved scientifically to be the real,genuine thing, and now science has reached the conclusion that none of these allegedgerms is genuine, but that the real one must be a filter-passer, which the most powerfulmicroscope in the world cannot discover, and therefore, one which nobody has everseen or is ever likely to see. (Laughter.) Science declines to consider the common-sensefact that with wholesome pigstyes and a sanitary environment swine fever cannot geta look in. (Applause.)


   This is known as the anti-vivisectionist point of view. Allthese inoculation treatments are based upon the most cruel experiments on animals,and necessitate whole menageries of animals kept for the purpose of testing them.We object to the cruelty that is involved, but we can also prove that out of it comesno good to mankind, but harm. Anti-vivisection is not only love for animals--it isa sane and rational system, a belief in all that is good in medicine and surgerybut a disbelief in modern fads which arise in the vivisection laboratory and do notfit the facts observed at the bedside of human patients. (Hear, hear.)

   This is the anti-vivisection that is growing so rapidly thatit has inspired fear among our medical rulers, so that at a recent Congress in Ottawa,British and Canadian medical men were urged to combine to "fight anti-vivisection."They began by fighting me and they were beaten. (Loud cheers.) They are now aftera parent in Canada who would not allow antitoxin to be used on his child, becausehe knew of several deaths that had been caused by it, and I understand he ischarged with manslaughter; and it is a remarkable coincidence that a town in Alaskawhich nobody can get at except by dog sledges, and from which any scare can thereforebe started with absolute impunity, is said to be in danger of extinction from diphtheria--anunheard of thing!--and the solitary medical man there, instead of thinking, and treatinghis patients naturally, is frantically calling for antitoxin by aeroplane! (Laughter.)I don‘t believe a word of it. I have travelled across America from the Atlantic tothe Pacific twice over, and I know how largely the American Press is in the handsof the serum manufacturers. It is only a newspaper stunt.


   The medical profession during my trial was divided into twocamps. The one desired me to be convicted because I was a nuisance, and the otherwas terrified lest I should be convicted, for they realised that my convictionwould mean an end to medical liberty. When the verdict of the jury was known, themajority rejoiced; but the minority held up its hands in pious horror, and cried,"Good heavens! why, the verdict means that any doctor will he able to do ashe likes!" (Laughter.) The only other part of the world where I found that sentimentexpressed was in an editorial article on my trial published by an advanced editorin a Chinese newspaper. (Renewed laughter.)

   Sir William Willcox actually went so far as to declare thata man who doesn’t believe in a certain treatment ought to give his patients the chanceof it by recommending them to somebody more orthodox than himself.

   Have you hear such sublime logic? and to emanate too from thelips of the medical adviser to the Home Office! a man is expected to do despite todictates of his own conscience in order to comply with time current fashion of thetime.

   But my opponents do not fight fair; they don‘t play the game.Right the way through I have had to contend with every form of misrepresentationby unscrupulous opponents. Most of you have no doubt seen that since the trial Ihave been obliged to compel one medical man to publish a public apology for declaringthat I had been surreptitiously vaccinated by another medical man during the smallpoxscare. It took me years to run that widely circulated libel to earth. The stupidityof the libel is apparent, for had I wished to protect myself in this silly mannerI should hardly go to an enemy to do it for me. I should have vaccinated myself.(Laughter and cheers.) Another medical man remarked to a medical friend who is onthis platform to-night: "Of course, it is Hadwen’s living"; I had an anonymouspostcard some three or four weeks ago, in which a medical man wrote, "You oldhumbug, you know you get fifteen hundred a year from the Anti-vaccination Leaguefor what you do." Fancy the poor Anti-vaccination League offering me fifteenhundred a year! (Laughter.) Let me at once say, that it has always been the proudestboast of my life that I have fought my battles without ever having put a single halfpennyof pay or reward of any kind into my pocket. (Loud applause.) The Societies’I workfor are rich in loyalty, sterling in their zeal and earnestness, proud in their ideals,but poor in their funds. But even were they wealthy I should still feel it the greatesthonour to say with the Apostle Paul: "These hands have ministered unto my necessitiesand I would not be beholden unto any of you." (Renewed applause.)

   When I went into this recent light for the maintenance of personaland medical liberty to maintain time right to think and act for myself, I knew thatit meant months of anxiety and strain and a cost of some thousands of pounds, whichI should probably have to bear alone.

   Your sympathy and loyalty helped me in the strain, your marvellousliberality freed me entirely of the burden of cost. I am still your unpaid servant,and the memory of your love will be my reward for all that I may yet hope to do inthe field that lies before me. (Continued applause.)

   Our battle against wrong, our struggle for liberty both forourselves and others is a battle of sacrifice and unselfishness against the mostselfish of creeds in Christendom. Our claim is that right is greater than might;that time work of evil cannot be the foundation of good; that the defenceless andthe weak must not be exploited by the strong, and even though we may be few againstthe many, nevertheless, as James Russell Lowell wrote :--

"They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think.
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three."

   As the speaker resumed his seat there was prolonged applause,the audience rising and giving loud cheers, followed by the singing of "Forhe ‘s a jolly good fellow" and further cheers. The Chairman thanked the severalspeakers and Dr. Gertrude Best forher beautiful rendering on the organ, and the meetingclosed.