Your Life is Their Toy - Emanuel Josephson

New Styles in Quackery—Fieshbein's 'Modern Home Medical Adviser'

Far less ASTUTE than his quack patron and master, George H. Simmons, wise-cracking Morris Fishbein, heir to the throne and power of the A.M.A., has permitted his quest for the dollar to lead him to jeopardize his position and to display unbelievable sciolism and lack of discretion. Endowed with the natural impulses of a "cloak and suiter," his special talents always have been in the direction of a sort of high-pressure salesmanship that manifested itself even during his student days. Since then such model citizens as Moe Annenberg and Unioneer Scalise have furnished inspiration.

For a long time Fishbein has directed his efforts toward securing for himself a lucrative monopoly of medical publication in the lay press. The business code that goes by the name of "medical ethics" made such a monopoly a simple matter. It barred other members of the Association from writing for the lay press without its, i.e. Fishbein's, express permission. Fishbein muzzled the profession. And he, his brother and a few others were able to collect handsomely for exclusive medical publication in the lay press. Among his other activities, he has been medical editor of Look and of the Newspaper Enterprise Association. With his brother, be also wrote a column for the now extinct Delineator.

Starting with the offer to censor and edit medical articles for the magazines and periodicals, he developed the habit of suppressing the literary products of others and replacing them with his own masterpieces, for which he was duly paid. In time there was scarcely a magazine or periodical that was not graced with samples of Fishbein's highly-priced omniscience.

In the Scripps Howard and other publications subscribing to the N.E.A. appeared syndicated columns of medical wisdom by Dr. Morris Fishbein. At the foot of these columns was published a note suggesting that the reader cut out the article, paste it in a scrap book, and thus become his own doctor, after the true A.M.A. standards of "Doc" Simmons et al. In one column appeared Fishbein's recommendation of the use, as a "harmless" reducing drug, of dinitrophenol which caused many cases of blindness and deaths.

Fishbein's larger contributions were originally confined to volumes on "Quacks and Frauds." Naturally none of the quackery and frauds in which the A.M.A. engaged were ever attacked in these volumes. The situation reminds one of the pot which calls the kettle black.


The lucrative literary business of Fishbein, however, culminated in the publication of the "Modern Home Medical Adviser." This volume was falsely, quackishly and sensationally advertised in full-page spreads in the newspapers. It was represented on the cover advertisements as an epitome of medical wisdom and omniscience directly derived from the oracle of medicine, the great Fishbein, in the following words:

"The Modern Home Medical Adviser is a book of hope and promise for suffering millions and a safeguard . . . of knowledge for all who value continued good health above everything else. Under the able editorship of Morris Fishbein, M.D., former president of the American Medical Association and Editor-in-Chief of its Journal in whose pages the new and vital discoveries of medical science are given first notice, twenty-four eminent specialists cover the whole field of medicine and surgery in a language that anyone can understand.

"The sum total of everything medical science has learned . . . is given authoritative treatment.

"No modern home should be without this important book. For the peace of mind it will give and the sense of security that comes of being prepared in time of need, this book is worth a thousand times its price. . .

"Forearm yourself with the knowledge and experience of the highest-paid medical men of our day and you will own the best insurance of abundant health and long life that money can buy."


The newspaper advertisements read as follows:

"Edited by Morris Fishbein, M.D.

"Famous spokesmen for the Medical World written by 24 of America's Best Doctors.

"Regardless of what health questions may now perplex you—regardless of what emergency you may face in the future—this huge Modern Home Medical Adviser gives you the valuable advice you MUST have to safeguard yourself and your family.

"What a priceless comfort and help it will be to have in your home at all times the most reliable Home Doctor Book ever compiled . . . The book that will enable you to tell whether you need a doctor and what simple home remedies to follow till he comes. . .

"Think of having the priceless advice of 24 of America's most eminent physicians and surgeons at your service at all times—showing you how to avoid pain, suffering, worry— placing at your instant command their vast store of sound medical knowledge and crystal-clear health guidance.

"Two hundred leading physicians quoted as authorities.

"Endorsed by doctors everywhere.

"The Wealthiest Millionaire Could Not Buy Better Health Guidance."

The italicized section means that the volume is represented as making each and every reader a diagnostician capable of judging the import of his symptoms and enough of a physician to indulge in self-treatment. Self medication, which is so justly and vigorously condemned by all intelligent persons, becomes laudable when stimulated by boss medical merchants—Dr. Morris Fishbein and twenty-four of "America's Best Doctors."

One can easily picture, as the advertisements are read, the carnival patent medicine show barker. He could do no better. These false and quackish advertisements are not only ill-advised and misleading. They are absolutely fraudulent. They represent the acme of the quackishness introduced into the A.M.A. by "Doc" Simmons. They constitute one of the finest modern samples of quack advertising and publicity indulged in by the unscrupulous bosses of organized medicine with the sanction of its dual and perverted "ethics," Charges of false and misleading advertising were filed with the Federal Trade Commission. Later advertising was changed.

If the balance of the medical profession resorted to such medicine show advertising and rose to such heights of quackery as characterizes their bosses, they also might succeed in levying as high a toll on public credulity as do these "highest paid medical men of our day." This advertising is exceptional in that it clearly states the ideals of its subjects.


The volume is replete with advice that is sometimes absurdly wrong and is sometimes dangerously false. Skimming through the volume, a few of the false passages were culled for citation.

On page 718, the "authorities" state:

"Sometimes the pain (of earache) may be relieved in the early stages by dropping into the ear some warm eardrops, usually composed of glycerine with a small percent of phenol."

Few intelligent physicians fail to realize how fruitless and dangerous is the use of these drops in the ear. They cause a congestion of the eardrum which may serve to aggravate the inflammation present. If there is no inflammation present at the start these drops may induce inflammation and reduce the resistance of the tissues. The congestion caused by the drops serves to deceive and confuse the physician regarding the status of the ear, and therefore often results in needless surgery. Any competent physician knows enough to condemn the practice recommended to the public by these merchant "authorities."

On the same page, Fishbein and his "authorities" cast to the swine public a gem of wisdom: they recommend incision of the eardrum for relief of mastoiditis. Persons who know anything about the subject realize that by the time relief is sought for mastoiditis the eardrum generally has been incised or destroyed; that incision of the eardrum merely drains the middle ear and does not suffice to drain the mastoid abscess. But medical "authorities" need not know the elements of medicine; politics alone serves to carve out career and reputation.

On page 313, Fishbein sings the praises of oily nose drops with unparalleled wisdom:

"For years camphor-menthol solutions and preparations of oil, camphor, menthol and eucalyptol have been used to give relief in nasal irritation. Tne actual worth of such preparations in curing the cold is doubtful. Their value in securing comfort is considerable."

One of the most significant "comforts" of such oily preparations, especially in infants, has been widely publicized by the Health Commissioner of New York City, Dr. John L. Rice, who pretends to be no authority on the diseases of the nose. He warned the public of the fact that every practitioner knows—that such mineral oil preparations may cause lung abscesses and serious disease. But Morris Fishbein—eminent specialist in disease of men, women and children, in diseases of eye and toes, ears and anus, mind and bladder—in his profound wisdom does not sanction such consequences of "comforting oily nose drops," Fishbein entertains a high opinion of things "oily," and our infants will have to regard the lung abscesses given them on his advice as "comforts."

There is no end of gems of medical "wisdom" and misinformation in the volume. Turning to page 743, one finds, in a disquisition on syphilis, the following epigram:

"One of the difficult things about syphilis is that to cure it often requires a long time—two years or more."

Professor Henry H. Hazen truthfully and optimistically states with regard to "cures" in syphilis:

"The criteria of cure are most unsatisfactory. Not until more cases have been followed for years shall we know exactly what has been accomplished. Relapses have been reported after the patient has been clinically and serologically negative for eight or ten years."

The consensus of those who know and tell the truth is that there does not yet exist any method of "cure" or even a reliable criterion for the judgment of "cures" in syphilis.


Fishbein's "Modern Home Medical Adviser" serves as a perfect illustration of the true function of the American Medical Association and of its rackets, including its publicity racket. It is a profitable enterprise for its bosses' ring and a business-getter for their henchmen, medicine's politically designated "authorities." This function of the American Medical Association and its monopolistic and coercive nature is clearly stated in the opening chapters of this invaluable "Adviser." It states:

"Before a physician may join the A.M.A. he must be a member of the county and state medical societies, and he must be a member of all these societies before he may join any 'recognized* specialty societies."

". . . Membership in a medical society is not an absolute guarantee of honesty or of good faith (of a physician) . . but

"A patient is much better off with a doctor who belongs to a recognized medical society."

By this time the reader has learned enough to appreciate the advantages of keeping out of the hands of the nit-wits who bow to the racketeering of medical organization; also that a good use for the Modern Home Medical Adviser is building fires or baser employ.

Announcing Dr. Morris Fishbein's employment by it as a syndicated writer, King Features Syndicate, Inc, stated in a full page advertisement in Editor and Publisher of March 23, 1940: