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A Collection of the Important and Interest-
WITH NOTES AND ANNOTATIONS
JOHN D. LAWSON, LL.D.
PREFACE TO VOLUME FOUR. While the judicial reports are full of civil actions for damages against physicians and surgeons for malpractice, there are few reported criminal prosecutions. The reason is that the criminal law of England and America, has always with a tender care protected this profession from so grave a responsibility for erroneous opinion or mistaken zeal. One of the earliest of the great English common law Judges said: “God forbid that a failure should subject the unfortunate practitioner to a criminal prosecution when he has done the best he could to effect a cure.” So when in the year 1832 in Baltimore, Maryland, Francis Burke (p. 1) was tried for manslaughter because a patient whom he had treated according to the Thomsonian system, a method which all the regular physicians united in saying was most ridiculous and absurd—had died on his hands, the Judge told the jury that the law had nothing to do with the merits or demerits of any school of medicine or whether one was better or worse than the other but that the only questions they had to decide were first, was the practitioner qualified to apply the remedies according to the system he professed to employ and second, did he use due care in doing so.
The Trial of Charles Sprague (p. 88) discloses a form of insanity very strange but at the present day well understood and defined.
The most celebrated criminal trial in the United States in the character and standing of the culprit, the victim and the witnesses is undoubtedly that of Professor John W. Webster (p. 93) for the murder of Dr.