Stephen Paget.

The faith and works of Christian science online

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killed five-and-twenty patients, shortened the lives
of five-and-twenty more, crippled five permanently,
and caused unnecessary suffering to a hundred and
fifty. These were in-patients: it would take many
pages, to describe her treatment of the out-patients.
At a subsequent meeting, at the Albert Hall, she said
that the events of this black week had been "nothing


less than the demonstration of God's allness through
true understanding."

• II

Let imagination give place to experience. Here
are some real cases. They have, nearly all, been
sent to me for the purpose of this book : all but half
a dozen, which I have taken from a collection of
newspaper-cuttings. About a score of these cases
have been sent to me from America; but the great
majority occurred in England. I give them as they
came, in letters from friends. Taking them in this
way, we have just a lot of stories about Christian
Science, told as they might be told across the table,
doctors dining together. One or two came from
non-medical people: all the rest have been sent to
me by doctors. The reader ought to go over them
with a doctor, or with a medical student, to see their
full significance. They display (i) the great liking
which Christian Science has for the very worst sort
of "surgical cases"; (2) the cruelty or brutality
which naturally goes with her terror of pain and of
death : (3) the element of madness which is in her
faith; (4) the vanity or self-conceit which approves
and adopts a bastard philosophy, not merely for its
own sake, but for the sake of opposition to authority.
Anyhow, here are the cases : and I could easily have
collected many more. Indeed, some may still be on
their way, as this book goes to press : and I shall be


grateful for more of them, in view of the possibility
of a second edition.

1. "Whatever advantage in the treatment of disease, or in the
stilling of certain anxieties attendant upon ill-health, is to be de-
rived from the conviction that recovery is certain. Christian Science
can lay some claim to afford. Such advantage, however, will
need be based upon an effrontery and a facility for unblushing lying
which are beyond the powers of the common charlatan. I remem-
ber a man, with a hopeless malignant growth of the pharynx, whose
last days were made quite happy by the assurance of a Christian
Scientist that he would *get quite well.* In this comfortable faith
he died. His visits to me and to other surgeons only added to his

2. "I was called in consultation, and found the patient mori-
bund: the history being that a 'healer' had been resident in the
house for some weeks, but had given up the case a few days before.
The case was one of tuberculosis, the end being probably due to
tubercular meningitis."

3. "One patient I had, who was the daughter of a Christian
Scientist. She had been suffering from bronchial catarrh, which
had become chronic, and was a somewhat aggravated case. The
child had been for a considerable period under the treatment of a
Christian Scientist, but without deriving any of the expected bene-
fits. This the child was taught to believe was due to her want of
faith; but, as the treatment was absent treatment, I daresay the
child had some little difficulty in arriving at the heights of faith
that the case demanded. After a while, others responsible for the
child intervened and insisted on her being placed under medical
treatment, to which she quickly responded.

"I had the pleasure of being introduced to a very distinguished
Christian Scientist, of 'great scientific attainment,' in the house of
this young lady, and he was very ready to enter into a discussion
to prove to me the firm basis on which his beliefs were built. He


was able to demonstrate, to his own satisfaction, how matter had
no real existence, and that molecules were simply due to crossing of
lines of force : * and that, in order to cause matter to disappear,
it was sufficient by a mental process to cause these lines of force to
uncross. On my saying that, if they had the power of causing
matter to disappear by the uncrossing of these lines, doubtless the
converse process of causing them to cross was equally open to them,
in which case they would be able to create matter, the good man
was nothing abashed, and said. Certainly, there should be no dif-
ficulty in creating matter, and in fact he had been able to show on
scientific principles how the miracles of Jesus Christ were per-

"Another case occurred in a relative, a young lady, who was
complaining of severe pains in the abdomen, which with Christian
Science stoicism she persuaded herself had no real existence.
The Christian Science treatment was adopted, to cause * simula-
tion of pain * to disappear. Unfortunately, in the course of a few

* The apologists of Christian Science try to avail themselves of
those recent discoveries in physics which are associated with the
names of Lord Kelvin and Sir J. J. Thomson. Thus, we find
Mr. Dixon quoting Prof. Ostwald, and Mr. M'Crackan quoting
Prof. Wilhelm Muller, and Mr. Maxwell Armfield, in the Daily
News, April 29, 1908, saying, "The physical itself is untrue.
What is the use of speaking physically, when even science — that
belated affirmer of truth — has agreed that what we call matter
is merely electricity vibrating at different speeds .? It is too late
in the day to waste time * speaking physically.* . . . When we
realize that there is no division between spirit and matter, all is
perfectly clear." This is a good example of what Kant called
metaphysical quackery. To prove the non-reality of a tumour,
Mr. Armfield proclaims the reality of electricity. And what shall
we say of a Christian Scientist declaring that there is no division
between Spirit, which is God, and Matter, which is Nothing ?


days, acute peritonitis set in : and a surgeon opened the abdomen,
too late to save the patient from the results of acute appendicitis.
But the dead tell no tales.

"Another case occurred to a young lady who was a Christian
Scientist here, suffering from disease in the root of a tooth, which
her husband persuaded her had no real existence. She fell in with
his views as long as she could bear the pain : but despite all the
prayers delivered over that tooth, she rushed to the dentist, scattered
her principles to the wind — poor woman, she went through a good
deal before she succumbed."

4. " I have had many amusing experiences of Christian Science :
but the only case of actual harm done was the case of a lady suffering
from a large broken-down gumma of the scalp — a large sore,
exposing the bone. It soon healed under the usual treatment,
after the Christian Science people had had her in hand for many

"I had one lady, a Christian Scientist, whose complaint was
diagnosed and treated by them as cancer of the stomach, until
began to move I I delivered her of a very fine child ! "

5. "Miss a very delicate elderly woman having obvious

bronchitis, was ordered, by a Christian Science 'healer,' to walk
every day, in Newcastle winter weather, to her house, about a
mile and a half, for treatment. She soon became dangerously
ill with pneumonia, and was at death's door. She was pulled
through, by two doctors who were sent for when she was too ill
to visit the * healer,' and who attended her day and night."

6. "Some patients of mine have become ardent Christian
Scientists, and. In support of their convictions, told me of a wonder-
ful case in which a child had recovered from measles without any
physic ! "

7. "All whom I know professing Christian Science use the ser-
vices of a doctor as occasion arises."

8. "A patient was under my care for paraplegia, the result
of a fracture-dislocation of the spine, caused by a hunting accident.



He left the Home, after operation, a little better in his limbs, with
a practically healed bedsore, and some improving cystitis, to become
a Christian Scientist; and died, a few months after, from septic
poisoning, with a huge gangrenous sore over the sacrum opening
up the hip-joint, a large collection of pus in the pelvis, and multiple
abscesses in both kidneys, secondary to an infected bladder.'*

9. (From a nurse.) "A short time ago, I was nursing a lady
who was dying of angina pectoris. The attacks of pain were ter-
rible in their intensity, and only relieved by the prompt and con-
tinual applications of the remedies prescribed by the physicians.
Ten days before the patient's death *an experienced nurse' came
down from London to take the night-duty. After three nights
the patient asked that the nurse might be sent away, * as she refuses
to give me my medicine or any help when I am in pain.* Being
questioned, the nurse said, *I have become a Christian Scientist,
and do not believe your patient is in pain ; nor do I think she will
die, if she will have faith.' The patient died seven days later.
The nurse, I have since heard, has had to leave several cases, be-
cause of her 'neglect' of patients, and their consequently increased
suffering." *

* For an extreme case of Christian Science "nursing," we
have the inquest (Jan. ii, 1908) on Mrs. Dixon, of Richmond,
who died of bronchitis without medical attendance. She had
two Christian Scientists who were supposed to be helping her.

One of them, Mrs. , gave evidence that she neither sent for

a doctor, nor gave the patient any material remedies, nor had
any experience of such cases, nor had any fear of what she was

doing. The other. Nurse , gave evidence that she neither

felt the patient's pulse, nor made any examination, nor prayed
for her: gave her beef-tea, and a hot-water bottle, but would
not give her brandy, sal-volatile, or a poultice: would leave it
to a person whose intellect was clouded somewhat by the ap-
proach of death to decide whether to have or not to have a doc-


10. "Mrs. became a Christian Scientist after developing

an internal cancer. They went to live at , in order to be near

Christian Science workers there, so that the 'treatment* might be
continued, and presently she died there. No one in the house-
hold shared her views; and, a day or two before she died, a doctor
was called in, so the necessity for an inquest was avoided. She
had a great desire to live, and told me herself she would not die."

11. "One of their chief men here is a solicitor who was doing
a very small practice, chiefly in the police-courts, until he took up
Christian Science. He then found the latter so lucrative that he
gave up practising the law, and now fattens upon his victims."

12. "It was a case of advanced heart disease, with dilatation,
dropsy, and the worst outcome of valvular disease which no longer
yielded to treatment. The case was obviously hopeless, and I
only saw the patient once. Christian Science ministration was then
begun. It had long been strongly urged by relations. The patient
died within two weeks of my visit with his regular attendant, who
was dismissed. I have heard of several other cases where patients
have clearly been left to die without appropriate treatment."

13. "Two cases of Christian Science treatment have come under

my care at Friedenheim. (i) Mrs. , admitted June 6th,

suffering from fibro-cystic disease of breast and forehead. Her
son wrote, on the application form, * She has been for some months
under the influence of the Christian Scientists, and has been buoyed
up by hopes of recovery through their mediation. She now realises
her mistake, and is quite willing to have medical supervision. I
took her to Guy's Hospital, but the House Surgeon pronounced
the case absolutely beyond hope of recovery.* This patient, how-
ever, was again brought under their influence, and removed on
June 14th. (2) Mr. , admitted April 14th, suffering from

tor. To many questions. Nurse gave no answer, not a

word. But she did say that surgery is allowed, in Christian
Science, for setting bones only, not for operations,


chronic pulmonary tuberculosis. Came under the influence of
Christian Scientists, and discharged himself that he might be under
their care, on June 13th. He died nine days later."

14. "My sole experience is that of a neurotic lady who paid
Christian Science £1 a week for some time to 'think* about her.
After a month, £1 a week proving insufficient for a cure, she paid
£2 for a proportionate extra amount of thought; but the eagerly
expected miracle not being forthcoming, she dropped the payment,
and spent subsequently about £$ on high-frequency treatment,
with excellent results."

15. "A woman ran a splinter into her thumb, which became
septic. She went to a Christian Scientist, who * treated' her for a
fortnight. When she eventually came to St. Bartholomew's
Hospital, the thumb had to be amputated at once. It was the right
thumb: and the woman formerly earned her living by sewing.
This is the only case I have come across personally : of course I
have heard of many more."

16. "A gentleman, past middle life, was brought home to Lon-
don in an advanced stage of general tuberculosis: both lungs
riddled with cavities, abdomen full of fluid, widespread oedema,
laryngeal involvement. Some friend, who was a Christian Sci-
ence enthusiast, persuaded them to tiy a * healer.* The Christian
Science gentleman came, and promised rapid amelioration if he
would but follow his methods. In two days, the sick man died.
No power on earth could have even made him temporarily better.
The 'healer' charged a fee; how much, I do not know."

17. "I know a case of a young adult, who suff'ered seriously
from bleeding from the bowel. The patient was treated by Chris-
tian Science and got gradually worse. Another doctor and I were
called in shortly before death. The patient was then completely
blanched from loss of blood, and beyond medical aid. The patient
died very shortly after my visit. There is little doubt that, had
doctors seen this patient earlier, the life might have been


18. "The only case which I have seen after Christian Science
treatment was a fractured coccyx in an elderly lady, which under
Christian Science had got fixed in a position which gave great pain :
but I only saw her once, as I suggested operation."

19. "I have heard of several cases of Christian Science treat-
ment, and I have met with some in my practice, but fear I have
kept no note of them. The one case which impressed itself on my
memory is as follows : A child suffering from diphtheria was treated
by Christian Scientists until it died. As the case was not seen
medically, no diagnosis was made. Other children attending the
same school were allowed to see and play with the child, and one
little child that I knew contracted diphtheria. I think there were
three children, altogether, took diphtheria from this one case."

20. "The only case in my own practice that I think would be
useful for your purpose, is that of a young man, of about 19, who
had suffered for years from severe epileptic attacks. These had
been kept in check by the regular use of bromides. The parents
came under the influence of a Christian Science * healer,* who prom-
ised to cure the lad, and insisted on all drugs being discontinued.
As soon as the influence of the bromide had passed away, the fits
came on with exceptional severity, and I was hurriedly summoned.
The bromides were again resumed, and the fits brought under con-
trol as before."

21. "I was recently called in consultation to see a lady with
a very large ovarian malignant cystic tumour, which had been
ruptured by a slight accident the day before, and necessitated im-
mediate operation. I was informed that some time previously
she had become a Christian Scientist, and, in spite of much internal
pain and discomfort, associated with marked enlargement of the
abdomen, refused to admit that there was anything the matter with
her, and declined to see a medical man. She recovered from the
operation : but the peritoneum had become infected by the bursting
of the cyst, and in a few months numerous malignant growths
developed in the abdomen. Had she been operated upon when


she first began to suffer from symptoms, a valuable life might have
been spared.**

22. "I am afraid I cannot supply you with any specific cases
of 'Christian Science.' My experience is, that most patients who
have, previous to their having taken medical or surgical advice,
indulged in this fashionable form of quackery, are prone to con-
ceal the fact ! **

23. "I have not in my personal experience come across cases
in which Christian Science has done harm. I know, of course,
of plenty in which no good was done.**

24. " I saw a lady, years ago : she was dying of cancer of the
liver. We, of course, could do nothing for her, and were only
there by the desire of her husband. But I believe the 'healer*
ministered to her until her death; and I hope, indeed think, that
she may have been of some use in smoothing her passage across
the bar. And now I am writing, I shall go on to say that I am
almost sorry you are writing your book because, as one who is
largely concerned with the neurotic element in disease, I would
that many more miserable men and women could hang on to
some belief that lifted them out of themselves; rather than into
the hands of us doctors, as into a chemist's shop. The name
'Christian Science' is objectionable: but if we preach mental
physiology only, which it is, no one listens. I talk common-
sense physiology to these people, and often enough they go away
in the frame of mind of Naaman the Leper. But call the same
thing 'Christian Science,* and it is something quite different, and
seems really to rescue some of these cases for a useful life."

25. "The patient had had an early carcinoma (cancer); diag-
nosed by , of Guy's, who said it was a very favourable case

for operation. She was going to have it removed, when a relative,
who is an ardent Christian Scientist, persuaded her very strongly
to have it treated by Christian Science. I only saw her in the
last stages of the disease, when any form of treatment was abso-
lutely hopeless. The Christian Science folk tried to buoy her up


to the last, but her husband (it was at the time of the Boer War)
only just got back from Pretoria a day or two before she died.
It doesn't sound much of a case now, but in real life it was a
heartrending one, as the husband and wife were very much in
love with one another."

26. "A man, suffering great abdominal pain, was assured by
a Christian Scientist that he ought not to think about it, etc.
The pain continued (for two or three days), but no doctor was
called in, because the patient was so positively assured by the
Scientist that the pain was * imagination/ At last, a doctor was
sent for, who found appendicitis, and said that an immediate
operation was necessary. It was refused for some hours, that
the patient might set his affairs in order. During this delay, the
abscess gave way into the peritoneal cavity, and the patient died
in a few hours, without operation."

27. "A Christian Scientist lady refused to apply to a doctor
until one of her limbs, which had been poisoned, gave her such
agony she could no longer endure it. It was then found to be
in such a condition that it was feared amputation was the only
possible course. However, after most careful medical treatment
and assiduous nursing day and night — first by a delicate sister,
who broke down under the strain, and then by a nurse, the limb
was saved : after the greatest anxiety and fatigue and heavy ex-
pense to the family."

28. "I can only recall two cases, (i) A breast-carcinoma,
treated by prayers for two years, and, when seen by me, inoper-
able. (2) A myoma uteri, prayed over for five years, until it
blocked the pelvis and led to ascending ureteritis and pyelo-
nephritis with rigors. I declined to operate, and the patient died
of uraemia in ten days. These two deaths due to Christian Science
sum up my total record of Christian Science."

29. "An elderly lady took up with Christian Science, to her
great advantage and benefit, having been all her life a more or
less neurotic subject; but in reality she had had excellent health,


and was young for her age. During the years she was a Scientist,
she had perfect health, no neuralgias, headaches, or other ail-
ments, and was able to walk as she had never done before. Un-
fortunately, she got influenza, and with it double pneumonia:
and they sent for her usual medical attendant and for me. We
thought she would probably die. She was satisfied by that time
with Christian Science: indeed, she was too ill, when first seen,
to have a will of her own. She got quite well from her pneu-
monia; but gradually all her aches and pains have returned, and
I am sorry to say more real now than of yore, as she has just had
herpes, with much neuralgic pain."

30. "Of course, I have had an interesting experience with
Christian Science. A craze of that sort does not reach its present
proportions without a little of the ferment of truth, and there is a
good feature which I think we must all recognise in insisting upon
the influence of the mind on the body. The trouble comes from
the appalling ignorance of elementary facts in Nature, which, of
course, from their standpoint are non-existent. Among the most
glaring instances I recall, are the following: A California boy,
of 13 or 14, with a helpless and hopeless congenital brain defect,
causing the well-known disease, bilateral athetosis, was under the
Boston high priests for six weeks with a promise of full cure. A
young woman with spinal caries, who suflFered severely and be-
came paraplegic, was prayed over for months without any avail,
and of course valuable time was lost. A recent case illustrates
the shamefaced audacity which comes from abysmal ignorance —
at the insistence of relatives, and against the wish of the patient
himself, a Christian Scientist was introduced into the house in the
case of a chronic malady, the utterly hopeless nature of which
could have been appreciated by a ten-year-old child. I do not
know whether it is worth while wasting powder and shot in the
attempt to protect the public from their own folly — Populus
vulty etc."

31. "An invalid friend, Miss B , who lived with me, put



herself under Christian Science treatment : that is, she was visited
several times, and had a good deal of twaddle talked to her. She
has been suffering for six years from paralysis agitans, and has
been told by several doctors that she is incurable. She is in a
very helpless state, just able to walk, but not without support,
and unable to feed herself or to wash her own hands. This
Christian Scientist who visited her, Mrs. A., invited Miss B. to
stay with her, saying that in two or three weeks she would be
cured, and be able to go back to her work. I tried to dissuade
them both, pointing out to Mrs. A. how much care and nursing
Miss B. required, but she said: *Oh dear no, she will soon want
none at all,* and told me that she herself had been cured by Chris-
tian Science when she was far more helpless. I had heard that
Mrs. A.*s disease had been purely imaginary, so I suggested
mildly that one complaint differed from another, but she would
not admit it. At any rate. Miss B. went to C , Mrs. A. tak-
ing her down in a motor-car, or, as she put it in their scientific
way, *on the wings of love.' Miss B. came back a fortnight later,
dreadfully upset and hysterical, and very weak and almost speech-
less. Fortunately, her sister lives at C , and found out how

they were treating her. The sister came to me boiling with in-
dignation, and told the whole tale. Apparently Mrs. A. and
the nurse tried to stimulate Miss B. by neglect, and she had not
responded well, owing to want of faith. They left her to stand
by herself, and when she fell down they told her to get up, which
she could not do. They refused to help her, and she began to
cry. Whereupon they said, *If you don't stop crying, we shall
go away and leave you': and they did leave her alone in the
room, lying shrieking on the floor, for some time. When she
came back, she was worse than I ever saw her, and it was quite
three weeks before she returned to her usual state. I do not
really suppose there was lasting harm done, for I put down her
increasing ill-health ever since to the natural progress of the dis-

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Online LibraryStephen PagetThe faith and works of Christian science → online text (page 11 of 16)