Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.


  • A Life Story
  • The Machine for the Harvest of Life
  • A Resolution for Truth
  • High Respect for Surgery
  • Surgery Defined
  • What Can Osteopathy Give in Place of Drugs?
  • A Few Questions are Propounded to the Medical Doctors
    LISTEN to a life story told in five minutes or more.  I was born on this globe sixty-eight years ago. I had the luck, good or bad, to be born in a house of drugs.  Father was an M.D., also a D. D. At the end of thirty-five years I began to reason how a doctor of divinity could blend with the foolish teachings of medicine.  Questions arose like this: How can man harmonize the idea that all God's work is perfect, and never in running order?  His finest machine, man, is never in running condition?  Has the God of wisdom failed in this one superstructure, man, and why did He say it was good if He knew it would not work as He thought when He made it, and why should a D.D., who with uplifted bands says, "His works prove His perfection," and take a dose of quinine and whisky to assist nature's machine to run the race and do the duties of life? If so, where is the proof of his faith in God's perfection, and why should he eat and drink of all that is deadly in effect?  I did not wish to think or speak irreverently of our divines, nor our M.D.'s, who follow just behind God to fix His machines for the harvest of life.  But why follow His work, if good and wisely made by the hand and mind of all Intelligence?  I began to reason about on this line:

    Would God get offended at man if he would say to Him, "You have failed in enough places to admit of a few suggestions"? -- when man in his wisdom, or lack of wisdom, would say by word or deed, "Thou hast failed to make this and that part or principle to adjust itself to suit the seasons and climates of the globe, on which it is placed, and your machine must have additions and be oiled by drugs and drinks, or it will be forever a failure on the field of battle between life and death now raging all over the world"?  Such questions arose, and stood before me. for years.  I found to my mind that there was a great mistake in God's work or man's conclusions, if drugs were not in absolute demand when he was sick.  Now I was in a close place, and saw at once that if I voted to use drugs, I would by that vote set aside the ability of God to provide for His man under all conditions, and He was not the mind and intelligence claimed for Him; and if I voted for God, I would soon find seventy-five per cent of the human race in line to oppose that conclusion.  To defend and maintain that the works of nature bad been able to prove perfection at every point of observation, or under our most crucial test of philosophy, I soon found, to be popular I would have to enter a life of deception; and at that time I determined to run up the white emblem of truth with the red flag of eternal war for that flag, and by it I would stand until I was dead, dead, and folded in it to begin the common rest of all human forms, which is as natural to the body of man as the love of a mother to her babe.

    The advocate of Osteopathy has the highest respect for the science of surgery, which has been recognized as a science in all ages.

    As defined by Dunglison, "Surgery is that part of the healing art which relates to external diseases, their treatment, and especially to the manual operations adapted to their cure."  A little more definite is the wording in Chambers' "Encyclopedia":  "Surgery signifies the manual interference, by means of instruments or otherwise, in cases of bodily injury, as distinguished from the practice of medicine which denotes the treatment of internal diseases by means of drugs."

    As has been before stated, the object of Osteopathy is to improve upon the present systems of surgery, midwifery, and treatment of general diseases; it is a system of healing which reaches both internal and external diseases by manual operations and without drugs.  In the common acceptation of the word, as popularly understood, surgery means cutting, and any reference to a surgeon's work calls up a mental picture of such instruments as the knife, scalpel, or lance, and their use upon the human body.  We accept that part of surgery also as of great use and benefit to mankind.  An Osteopath will use a knife to remove any useless parts as quickly as a carpenter would use a saw to remove a useless piece of timber.

    We recognize the necessity for bandages, lint, splints, stays, and anesthetics, because they have proven their beneficial uses.

    But when should the knife be used?  Never, until all nerves, veins, and arteries have failed to restore a healthy condition of the body in all its parts and functions.  The great failing of many who enter surgical work is their too frequent use of the knife and anesthetics.  Where chloroform is used a hundred times, ninety-nine times it could have been avoided with beneficial results to the patient.

    Many are the sufferers who go through life disfigured, maimed, or deprived of some essential organ, who should have had their body restored to a perfect condition without being so mutilated.

    The oftener the knife is used upon the limbs, body, or head for any purpose, the more positively is shown an inexcusable ignorance of the natural law, which we recognize as a law able to restore any and all parts where death of the tissues has not occurred.

    What can Osteopathy give us in place of drugs? This is a great question which doctors ask in thunder-tones.  Tell them to be seated, and listen to a few truths and questions.

    "What will you give in place of drugs?"  We have nothing we can give in place of calomel, because Osteopathy does not ruin your teeth, nor destroy the stomach, liver, nor any organ or substance in the system.  We cannot give you anything in place of the deadly nightshade, whose poison reaches and ruins the eyes, sight and shape both, and makes tumors great and small.  We have nothing to give in place of aloes, which purge a few times and leave you with unbearable piles for life.

    We have nothing to give in place of morphine, chloral, digitalis, veratrine, pulsatilla, and all the deadly sedatives of all schools.  We know they will kill, and that is all we know about them.  We do not know that they ever cured a single case of sickness, but we do know they have slain thousands, and we cannot give anything that will take their places.  Their place is to ruin for life, and Osteopathy considers life too precious to place its chances in jeopardy by any means or methods.  In answer to the inquiry, What can you give us in place of drugs? we cannot add or give anything from the material world that would be beneficial to the workings of a perfect machine, that was made and put in running order, according to God's judgment, in the construction of all its parts, to add to its form and power day by day, and carry out all exhausted substances that have been
made so by wear and motion.

    If this machine is self-propelling, self-sustaining, having all the machinery of strength, all the thrones of reason established, and all working to perfection, is it not reasonable to suppose that the amount of wisdom thus far shown in the complete forms and the workings of the chemical department, the motor department, the nutritive, sensory, the compounding of elements, the avenues and power to deliver these compounds to any part of the body, to make the newly compounded fluids, any change in the chemical quality that is necessary for renovation and restoration to health?

    When we see the readiness of the brain to supply sensation and motion, and we are notified of an unnecessary accumulation at any point of the body by sensation or misery, we want that over-accumulation removed, for it is making inroads on life through the sensory ganglion to all its centers, which, we know, when fully possessed by diseased fluids, produce death from climatic or diseases of the seasons as they come and go.

    If life yields to the poisonous fluids that are generated during detention and chemical changes, why not conclude at once that the motor power was insufficient to keep in action the machinery of renovation through the excretory system; and reason proceeds at once to reach the oppressed points and centers through which the vasomotor or other nerves are irritated, causing the venous circulation to be so feeble as to allow diseased fluids to accumulate locally or generally through the system, to such a length of time that the fluids become deadly in their nature by the power of separation being overcome and lost.

    Osteopathy reasons that the special or general power of all nerves must be free to travel throng all parts of the body without any obstruction, which may be caused by a dislocated bone, a contracted, shrunken, or enlarged muscle, nerve, vein, or artery.  When enlarged or diminished they are abnormal in form, and all their actions in and for life, which acts must be strictly in obedience to the law of force, are found in the heart, brain, and the whole sensory system.

    If you have a thorough and practical acquaintance, through anatomy and physiology, with the form and workings of the machinery of life and health, and treat it as a skillful physiological engineer should, then you are prepared to say to the doctors of medicine, We have found no place in the whole human body where you can substitute anything but death in place of life.  Remove all obstructions, and when it is intelligently done, nature will kindly do the rest.

    Let me in conclusion ask the drug doctor if he has been able at any time to compound any substance that can be introduced into a vein that leads to the heart, and not produce death?  Do you not throw all substances into the stomach with the expectation that they will reach the divine chemical laboratory and throw out that which is incompatible to life?  Are not all your hopes in drugs placed upon this one foundation, that we make the horse of life trot slower for fever, and walk faster in the cold stage?  In short, doctor, is not your whole theory based upon guesswork?

    Has not nature's God been thoughtful enough to place in man all the elements and principles that the word "remedy" means?