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Observations placeholder

Hack Tuke, Daniel – Healing - Tapeworms and the pain from them cured by suggestion and placebos



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

As described in Illustrations Of The Influence Of The Mind Upon The Body In Health And Disease, Designed To Elucidate The Action Of The Imagination - Daniel Hack Tuke, M.D., M.R.C.P.,

SECTION III. — Systematic Excitement of a definite Expectation or Hope, in regard to the beneficial Action of totally inert Substances.

Severe gastric and intestinal pain was removed in the following interesting case, by a like appeal to the Imagination, and is graphically described:

" In July, 1845, the company of H.M.S. were attacked with an epidemic bowel complaint, terminating in simple diarrhoea in some, but going on to dysentery in many. In every one of the latter cases, tapeworms (whether a cause or merely an effect, I am unable as yet to divine) showed themselves. Amongst others who suffered was H. B — , a first-class petty officer, who had but a mild attack of dysentery, but who was much distressed towards the latter part of his attack, by tapeworm appearing in considerable quantities.

As the dysenteric symptoms disappeared, these worms were attempted to be dislodged by every means that could be devised, and for a time it was supposed these means had been successful; but, as I feared, at too great a sacrifice, seeing that the pain arising (as I fancied) from the large doses of powerful medicine necessary to effect this difficult object, continued around the pyloric orifice of the stomach and upper portion of the small intestines, to be most distressing.

Counter-irritations were applied until the skin became callous, sedatives administered until the man's senses became muddled, but no course of treatment seemed to afford the least relief. This being so, I determined to try the effect of mental influence. Stating to him, as I did to the other men, that, as his disease was most obstinate so was it necessary to have recourse to desperate means to relieve it - that, with his sanction, I would therefore put him under a medicine which it was most necessary to watch with the greatest attention, lest its effects should prove most prejudicial, perhaps fatal, &c.

Having by these statements made an impression, it became necessary to keep it up. This was done by repeated visits, at all hours of the day and night, and by expressing on these occasions the most intense anxiety as to the effect of the very powerful and dangerous medicaments.

This was not a case in which a sudden effect could be expected to be produced, whatever might be the means employed. Symptoms of disease existed which bore too close a resemblance to those of an organic order to admit of hope of a sudden, if even of tardy, relief.

Hence the pills (bread, of course) were given every sixth hour only. Within twenty -four hours the man's sufferings were decidedly less. Within four days he was almost free from pain. On the sixth day he was quite so, his pills were omitted, and at the end of a fortnight he was again at duty with a clear eye, a healthy skin, and was rapidly regaining: his flesh. Here, as in most cases where this method has been tried, the diet and drink have been left unrestricted. Occasionally, however, it became necessary to taboo some article, lest its coming in contact with the remedy might prove most destructive; in other words, articles are occasionally forbidden when the mind seems to be inclined to lose sight of what must be made the all-important subject of thought by night and day. The wonderful improvement in this man's state was frequently commented on by both officers and men, who, of course, were, and still are, as little acquainted with the means employed as the patient himself was.

"It may be said this case, as here given, goes for nothing, in so far as it does not show that the pains were anything but casual; in which case any other mode of treatment, or very likely no mode at all, would have been equally successful; or it may be, again, as it has before been said, that it was altogether feigned, and that the commanding officer would have made a better and quicker cure. I think not; and for the following reasons: the man's flesh had wasted; his eye became sunken; his skin sickly in hue, as well as in feeling; his sleep, when he had any, was of the most disturbed character.

But, more than all, the pain after some weeks returned, and the other bad symptoms followed in its wake; yet both it and they were again relieved a second time by the same means. While suffering from a third attack, he was sent to the Royal Naval Hospital at Malta, and then, after much suffering, he brought up by vomiting a portion of the mucous membrane of one of the small intestines, distinctly marked by two, at least, of the valvulse conniventes. I am assured by one of the officers of the establishment that he most carefully examined this ejected matter, and that its characters were so marked that there could be no room for a doubt as to what it was. This being so, we have pretty clear proof that disease existed long before this slough was thrown off; and that even this organic disease was suspended, on two occasions, by mental influence only."

The source of the experience

Hack Tuke, Daniel

Concepts, symbols and science items



Activities and commonsteps