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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

American Medical Diplomas

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American Medical Diplomas is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Evening News (Portsmouth) on 23 september 1884.


American Medical Diplomas

Sir, — In ventilating the question of sham degrees and American diplomas you do the public a great service. In all other trades and professions an incompetent man is a mere inconvenience, of more harm to himself than to others. It is different, however, in medicine. There, a blunder in diagnosis or an error in treatment means death to the unfortunate sufferer. It is obviously impossible for the poor and uneducated to distinguish between a qualified practitioner and a quack who has appropriated some high-sounding title. In order to protect them, therefore, it is necessary that the law and the force of public opinion should be brought into play.

The so-called "University of Philadelphia" might stand as a type of these sham examining boards. The university consisted of a small body of speculative parchment-mongers who did a roaring trade in worthless diplomas until the Government of the United States discountenanced them. They then established agencies in Europe and continued their dishonest traffic. Anyone who could muster the necessary dollars was free to their degree and might then pose as the equal of the bona fide practitioners who had expended hundreds of pounds and years of his life in obtaining his qualification. It is true that in practising on the strength of their bogus degree they rendered themselves liable to the Apothecaries Act. This, however, is seldom put in force, for the reason that the prosecutor too often finds his opponent a man of straw, and has to bear the expense of the proceedings. There is a body called the Medical Defence Association, which occasionally comes down upon these gentry and gibbets one to act as a scarecrow to the others. The public Press, however, is the best of all defences, for by ventilating the question it opens the eyes of those who might become dupes. It is no question of the comparative merits of British and American degrees. An M.D. of a good Transatlantic college is always respected in England, and any man might be Proud to hail from the school of which Gross, Sayre, and Austin Flint are shining lights. It is against sham degrees that we protest, Which enable a man to cover his ignorance by an imposing title, and to decide matters of life and death without being competent to do so.

I remain, Sir, sincerely yours,

A. C. D.





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