A Quote of Hahnemann’s on Criminals

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann developed the system of medicine known as homeopathy. Leading up to this, he did what he could to treat people using the rather inadequate medicines and methods available at the time. However, due to his careful observations of his patients and his observations of the development of epidemic and other illnesses in towns and cities, he wrote several documents (which are compiled in a book called The Lesser Writings of Samuel Hahnemann M.D.) which attest to his great natural abilities as a physician. This is an excerpt from a letter to the head of the town in Leipzig regarding eradicating malignant fevers. It recommends humane treatment for criminals. It is important to remember that this was written in 1795.

“If the gaol even for capital offenders can and ought to be nothing but a means of depriving them of all opportunity of injuring society, in that case every torture that is unnecessarily inflicted on them when this in custody is a crime on the part of the police.” (p. 214) Dr. Hahnemann is writing about this because he has observed that prisons are often a breeding ground for disease. He believes that criminals should only be deprived of causing harm to others, but that imprisonment should not cause them unnecessary harm. Conditions were quite bad for criminals, and they often became ill in those days. “It is great cruelty to shut up many prisoners together without allowing at least 500 cubic feet of space and air for each.” 500 cubic feet is about an 7x8x9 room. He implores them, “Police authorities, be humane!”

I was so impressed by this! We would be well to remember it today, all over the world.

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