Mrs. White had a considerable amount to say on the subject of medicine and doctors. Some of her statements are quite hilarious, others are rather nauseating. In an era ravaged by malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc. Mrs. White wrote the absurd statement:
"I have been shown that more deaths have been caused by drug taking than from all other causes combined. If there was one physician in the place of thousands, a vast amount of premature mortality would be prevented. Multitudes of physicians, and multitudes of drugs, have cursed the inhabitants of the earth." (Spiritual Gifts, Vol 4, p. 133)
I realize that medical practice was rather crude during her days and some people were poisoned by medicines as they are today. However, Mrs. White would like us to believe that over 50% of all deaths were directly due to medications. This smells a bit like sensationalism to me.
On the following page she wrote,
"Drugs never cure disease ... nature alone is the effectual restorer, and how much better could she perform her task if left to herself."Consider the fact that pneumonia used to kill about one-half its victims. Have you ever had a loved one cured by the miracle drug penicillin? Do you know any children who have survived 15 years because of drug treatment for leukemia? This disease used to kill kids within one or two months! Do you have any friends who have lived many extra years because they are able to get B12 injections monthly; really a small price to pay. Aren't you thankful that God has allowed us to find drugs which do cure diseases. Again, notice the words that Mrs. White used. She said, "Drugs never cure." Would it be possible today to have any of these miraculous cures had we followed Mrs. White's advice back in the 1860s?
Mrs. White had her own rules for physicians too. Let us consider a few of these.
"God's servants should not administer medicines which they know will leave behind injurious effects on the system, even if they do relieve present suffering." (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 4, p. 140)It is a fact that all drugs have injurious effects. Penicillin can cure, but unfortunately, it can kill too. The most commonly used drug aspirin can be fatal also. There is no drug that I know of that does not have potentially serious injurious effects. This means that Adventist doctors should get out of the business of using drugs to treat disease. Maybe they can use hydrotherapy (water treatments) for everything as Mrs. White advised.
True to the Victorian attitude on sex, Mrs. White of course had special counsel for doctors concerning treatment of the opposite sex.
"The light given me of the Lord in this matter is that as far as possible lady physicians should care for lady patients, and gentlemen physicians have the care of gentlemen patients ... any unnecessary exposure of ladies before male physicians is wrong ... women should be educated and qualified just as thoroughly as possible to become practitioners in the delicate disease which affect women, that their secret parts should not be exposed to the notice of men ... it is a most horrible practice, this revealing the secret parts of women to men, or men being treated by women. Women physicians should utterly refuse to look upon the secret parts of men ... It is not in harmony with the instructions given at Sinai that Gentlemen physicians should do the work of midwives. The Bible speaks of women at childbirth being attended by women, and thus it ought always to be." (Counsels on Health, p. 363-4-5).It is obvious from these selections that Mrs. White had quite a hang-up on matters of sex. I suppose lady nurses shouldn't look after male patients either.
Concerning physicians fees, Ellen White was quite adamant that Adventist doctors should not charge the same prices charged by 'worldly' doctors.
"Every physician should be true and honest the charges made by other practicing physicians in this country when called upon to attend suffering humanity is robbery, fraud." (Medical Ministry, p. 121-2)Mrs. White had some rather slanderous views of physicians. Most people would agree that, with a few exceptions, physicians represent an ethical and honorable profession. I suspect Ellen White was just a bit jealous.
"I am commissioned to speak to all who are engaged as physicians in our institutions ... while many who cannot afford to pay are treated free, others are charged exorbitant prices for operations which take but little time. The charges of worldly physicians are not to rule in our institutions." (Medical Ministry, p. 170)
I am not aware of any Adventist physicians who follow Ellen Whites counsel. I don't know of any Adventist physicians who do not use drugs, who do not treat the opposite sex, nor do I know any who send back half their check to medicare. However these Adventist physicians who do not follow her counsel will adamantly defend Ellen White as a true prophet. Do they not understand their own actions indicate that deep down in their heart they don't believe Ellen White is a true prophet from God? Why can't these professionals be honest?
In earlier days Mrs. White really had no use for doctors whatever.
"If any among us are sick, let us not dishonour God by applying to earthly physicians, but apply to the God of Israel. If we follow his directions (James 5:14,15) the sick will be healed. God's promise cannot fail. Have faith in God, and trust wholly in Him that when Christ who is our life shall appear we may appear with Him in glory."This quotation appeared in an early edition of her book "Early Writings" but was deleted in subsequent printings. An answer has been given to this criticism that Mrs. White's statement is comparable to that of James indicated in her quotation. James, however, did not indicate in his statement that physicians should be excluded. This notion is very reminiscent of a few modern day cults of which Christian Science is a good example.
We do have a good Biblical example of a physician's services being used. Luke, a writer of one of the gospels was often with Paul and apparently he attended Paul in his illnesses. It certainly is true that God answers prayers for the sick but this does not preclude Him working through a skilled physician. The Bible makes it quite plain that God gives gifts to people in order to help other people. The gift of healing is included in the spiritual gifts discussed by Paul in 1 Cor. 12. It is notable that healing is fourth; listed after wisdom, knowledge, and faith. Healing is listed before working of miracles, prophecy, ability to distinguish between spirits, kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues. No wonder this inflammatory statement was deleted in further printings of her book.
Mrs. White rightfully warned about mercury used as calomel - a laxative. She also warned of the dangers of Strychnine being used in medicines of her day. Of course, both these substances are poisonous and certainly have no legitimate medical use - she was right. However on the same page, (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 4, p. 139) she also warns about the use of opium and quinine.
Opium derivatives are pain killing drugs like Morphine, Demerol, etc. The suffering these drugs have relieved cannot be estimated. Only recently has it been discovered that the body itself produces similar substances (endorphins) in an attempt to relieve pain and protect the body. Unfortunately, these drugs like many others can be abused and lead to much misery.
Quinine is another miracle drug used exclusively until 1942 for the treatment of malaria. It is still used for this along with the newer drugs. Can you imagine how many lives have been saved by the use of Quinine? Malaria used to be one of the greatest killers of all time and remains a severe threat even in our day.
Ellen White said God had forbidden use of Quinine & Morphine. She was very wrong about these - but right about mercury and strychnine. A prophet can't be 50% right - accuracy must be 100%.
I shall prove to you in a later chapter that Mrs. White copied both her truths and errors from predecessors.
Ellen White and medicine make a rather fantastic study. A masterful coverage of this topic is found in the book by Ronald L. Numbers "Prophetess of Health". It would be well worth your time to search out a library copy of this book if you are particularly interested in this topic. (Editor's Note: This book can now be ordered from this web site.)