By Clarence Darrow
Summary: Clarence Darrow (1857–1938) was a famous American lawyer known for his wit, his oratory skill, and his defense of liberty and the common man. His most famous trial was the “Monkey Trial” of 1925, in which he defended John T. Scopes and opposed William Jennings Bryan. In this transcript of a radio address, Darrow defends chiropractic and the rights of the public to pursue the healthcare of their choice, rather than be limited to the monopoly of medical practice. “I would have no quarrel with the medical profession if they would leave me alone,” he says. “But I do object to being forced to patronize them.” He adds, “I stand for the right of everybody to regulate his own life for himself, and if he wants to live and die without the aid of the medical profession, he should have the right to do it, and if one should not have that right, it is pretty hard to tell what right we should have.” Timeless words for anyone who prizes liberty and opposes all forms of tyranny. From The Chiropractic Hour, ABC News, 1928.[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]
Clarence Darrow on Medical Control
I have been interested for a good many years in the question of leaving man free to do as he pleases so long as he does not directly interfere with someone else. I am not a chiropractor—I know very little about it—and it is not as a disciple of Dr. Palmer that I say a few words, but as a man who believes in liberty, or did when we had it!
I was born into this world without being consulted, and I presume there was a doctor present. I did not hire him. As I had no chance to say anything about the way I was born and who was present, I think I should have the right to do without the assistance of a doctor [now] if I wish. I cannot avoid the undertaker, but I ought to be able to avoid the doctor!
Now, I would have no quarrel with the medical profession if they would leave me alone. I am willing that they should advertise their wares and their business, but I do object to being forced to patronize them.
I know that the doctors, like everyone else, take themselves very seriously. I know that the efforts of the medical profession in the United States to control the treatment of human ailments is not due to its love of human life. It is due to its love of its job, which job it proposes to monopolize for itself.
I know that the doctors have been carrying on a vigorous campaign all over the United States against new methods and schools because they want the business, and they insist that nobody shall have the right to live or die without their services. Whether they cure more or fewer people than the new schools that do not use medicine—or whether they cure anybody—is, of course, a debatable question, which I will not undertake to discuss.
I stand for the right of everybody to regulate his own life for himself, and if he wants to live and die without the aid of the medical profession, he should have the right to do it; and if one should not have that right, it is pretty hard to tell what right he should have.
I know that much of the progress of the medical profession, if we can call it that, has been made against the advice of doctors.
I know that the medical profession is full of humbug and pretense. I know that a considerable percentage of physicians believe that, by the aid of a saw and a knife, they can make man over in better shape than the Almighty originally made him. I know that the fashions in operations change as do the fashions in dress. I know that one day the fashion is to operate for appendicitis [and the next day, it is not]. I know that the doctors are condemning today what they did a few years ago, and I am pretty sure that they will be condemning a few years from now what they are doing today. They will be compelled to, or they will have no patients.
I know that doctors dose people with medicine that they do not believe in themselves. I know that doctor’s families use very few drugs. I know that you can scarcely find an intelligent physician today who will not admit this to his friends.
I know that they have specifics to prevent one from taking almost any disease, yet not one of them can tell you how the prevention is brought about. I know they would vaccinate people for smallpox and that there is not a doctor that can explain how it prevents smallpox. Nor can he prove that it does prevent it. They are not content to vaccinate people who come to them, but they ask the state to pass laws to compel everybody to be vaccinated. I might as well ask the state to pass a law to compel the people to hire me to try their cases!
Sometime, if they keep on—and they will keep on if the people give them a chance—they will be able to vaccinate you for everything, and you will be obliged to be vaccinated.
I know you can pick out about five or six diseases that cause the deaths of probably nineteen-twentieths of all the people who live and die, and I have no doubt that the doctors will be able sooner or later to find a serum that will prevent you from getting any of them…but you will probably die in the operation! If we could pick out the various things that could be injected into the human system for twenty different diseases, I would like to see how a man would look and how long he would last if he took them all.
Nobody who believes in [smallpox vaccination] need have any fear of smallpox, so why compel people to take it who do not want it?
I have watched this medical profession for a long time—and it bears watching—and I know there is not a single thing affecting human life that they will not lay their hands on if we give them a chance. There is, I think, only one way to beat them, and that is to go to jail if necessary and defy them. The only part of the community that has nothing to say about the laws that these special interests pass is the people. All they have to do is pay for it—and they pay aplenty. I do not know how long the people will stand for it.
We will have, and now have, people telling us what we may eat and what we may drink—and especially what we may not drink—and we will have the Billy Bryans and the Billy Sundays sending us to jail to save us from going to hell.
Let me say this: if the people are willing to obey any law so long as it is on the books, it will be on the books forever. As a matter of fact, no law of any importance was ever taken off the books so long as the great mass of the people obeyed it. Most of the old witchcraft laws of New England are on the statute books today, but they have stopped condemning old women for witchcraft.
No law is ever repealed until the people stop obeying it. Sometime, if men are active enough and brave enough, they will be able to repeal many of the laws that hamper human rights.
By Clarence Darrow. ABC News, February 9, 1928, as aired on The Chiropractic Hour, station WBBR, New York, New York.