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HINTS TO SURGEONS AND OWNERS OF PRIVATE
All the world's a stage,
In ships of war, and in Indiamen, there are certain places allotted for the sick, and certain persons appointed to attend upon them. Immediately a patient applies, however trivial his complaint may be, if the surgeon deems it necessary, he is put upon the sick list, and kept there till the cure is completed. And although a considerable number be taken ill at the same time, they can all, without any difficulty, be taken from duty and laid up. Then when the surgeon has his patients laid up, he has only to visit and prescribe for them, and whatever he orders to be done, he knows will be done. Whatever he thinks it necessary to advise, either in the way of medicine, or food, or any thing else, he knows, without any farther trouble to him, will be strictly attended to by those whose business it is to wait upon the sick.
And thus he has both success and pleasure in his practice. Just as in an hospital on shore, he has his patients completely to himself; he has every thing done for them just as he would wish it ; there is nothing to thwart him, no difficulty standing in his way.
But in the small merchant-ship it is very different. In it there is but little room, and every place that can at all be spared is occupied. There is no place for the sick, but the common place for all; neither is there any one to attend upon the patient during his sickness. There are no more men than just enough to do the duty of the ship; consequently it is difficult to spare, particularly at certain times, even one of them.
And thus the surgeon is by no means agreeably situated. He has frequently to allow men to remain at duty when he thinks it necessary they should be taken from it ; and thus combating the complaint under disadvantageous circumstances, he does not get things done, and his patients do not get on so well as he would wish. And when circumstances absolutely demand that the patient be sent to bed, even then he does not get free of his difficulties. There being no one to give the patient any help, and the patient perhaps not very able to help himself, the surgeon himself must do every thing, or scarcely any thing will be done at all. And frequently when he has done all he can, he will not have done all he could wish. There are annoyances in his way which he cannot overcome; and neither he nor his patient get fair play.
One instance of difficulty in the practice of the small-trading ship is, when ulcers occur upon the legs or feet, a complaint not uncommon among seamen. So long as the man remains at his duty, and exposed to all weathers and usage, it is
sometimes no very easy matter to get him cured, it is hardly possible to have proper recourse to all the necessary measures.
But as the man is probably otherwise in good health, and as able to do his duty as ever, he cannot be allowed to lay past for such a small thing; and the cure must either be accomplished tediously while he remains at work, or perhaps after all he is obliged to be laid
up. Another is, in cases where we wish to give mercury. For all the arguments of the antimercurialists, most men yet, when they get a patient with what they conceive to be a truly syphilitic affection, never think the patient altogether safe, although the more prominent symptoms may disappear, unless they have brought his system under the influence of mercury, and kept it so for a time. Yet as the seaman in the private-trading ship is so absolutely needed, although he really has syphilis, as he is nevertheless able enough for duty, he will not be excused for such a considerable time; and we are under the necessity of administering the mineral