Tag: William Osler

Would Osler Stand for Anti-Vaccine Folks Using His Famous Quote?

I often find myself having to reset my irony meter after reading some of the anti-vacccine memes and posts that people send me.

Like when anti-vaccine folks quote the Founding Fathers

Would Osler Stand for Anti-Vaccine Folks Using His Famous Quote?

Or they quote William Osler…

You remember William Osler, don’t you?

In 1910, as smallpox outbreaks continued and anti-vaccine folks made it harder to get folks vaccinated, he wrote:

“I would like to issue a Mount-Carmel-like challenge to any ten unvaccinated priests of Baal. I will go into the next severe epidemic with ten selected, vaccinated persons and ten selected unvaccinated persons – I should prefer to choose the latter – three members of Parliament, three anti-vaccination doctors (if they can be found), and four anti-vaccination propagandists.

And I will make this promise – neither to jeer nor jibe when they catch the disease, but to look after them as brothers, and for the four or five who are certain to die, I will try to arrange the funerals with all the pomp and ceremony of an anti-vaccination demonstration.”

William Osler on Man’s Redemption of Man

Want to vote on whether Osler would pick Jim Meehan to be one of the anti-vaccination doctors for his challenge?

Anyway, the Osler quote that Meehan posted, about not taking medicine, doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.

Osler wasn’t telling folks to not take any medicines.

“Osler himself prescribed relatively few drugs, his basic armamentarium consisting of quinine for malaria, digitalis for heart failure, opiates for pain and coughs, and iron and arsenic for anemia.”

Would Osler stand by his famous quote today?

He just meant that folks should avoid medicines that weren’t necessary and had no chance of working. Medicines, at the time, which often did more harm than good.

While you likely could apply his statement to the overuse of antibiotics, he certainly wasn’t talking about vaccines!

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