LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
MRS. HOGGAN AND THE BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION.
[TO THE. EDITOR OF THE SPECTATOR:1
Sin,—In a letter published in your issue of the 7th ult., certain statements were made in connection with the exclusion of Mrs. Hoggan, M.D., from the British Medical Association, which a high authority, the British Medical Journal, not only disputes, but it adds remarks upon the question to which, in the absence of the person most concerned, I feel bound to take exception, and I shall esteem it as a great favour if you will kindly allow me to offer further evidence of the exactitude of the statements dis- puted. The letter referred to was written specially to correct two inaccuracies which had appeared in a preceding article, to the effect that either registration, or qualification for registration, was alone the qualification for ordinary membership of the British Medical Association. This the letter denied, giving ex- amples in point, which the British Medical Journal does not and cannot dispute, although to the one it attaches a meaning which has no foundation in fact, nor in the laws of the Associa- tion, when it states that,—" 3rd. The case of foreigners resident
abroad is not parallel with that of practitioners resident in England."
As a matter of fact, I have before me now the name of a gentle- man who was elected a member of the Association while resident in London, and holding a high hospital appointment there, although unqualified for registration. When, in its second statement, the British MedicalJournal says that "a qualified medical practitioner means a practitioner qualified according to law,—that is, accord- ing to the Medical Act," it evidently confounds the terms qualified for registration and qualified for practice. I accept the authority it quotes, but I find that although it is stated that the Medical Act was framed to enable the public to distinguish between qualified and unqualified practitioners, the term " qualified medi- cal practitioner" never once occurs throughout the Act.
On the contrary, there is a special interpretation clause, Clause 84, which defines the terms, " legally-qualified medical practitioner, Or duly-qualified medical practitioner," to mean " a person regis- tered under this Act" and "recognised by law." Better still, in order to leave no doubt, the British Medical Association, in ob- taining its new charter, was careful to leave out the word " duly," and retain the words " qualified medical practitioner " as the qualification for membership.
I also take exception to its remaining statement that on excluding Mrs. Hoggan, "what was done was done by the light of the law, as interpreted by counsel," or that at the meeting "the members deliberately chose to drop one out." The opinion of counsel, as printed officially in the Journal, con- tains no hint of the stratagem to be employed at the meeting against her, but on the contrary, the sub-committee, reporting on that opinion in the Journal of July 13th, specially states at the end of Clause 7, " that any member can, if he think fit, move an amendment at the annual meeting to the effect that Mrs. Hoggan should also be declared elected."
When, however, Dr. Bond, of Gloucester, rose to speak on this point, he was at once met, I may say silenced, by a statement from the President that " Mrs. Hoggan, at the time she was proposed as a member, was not qualified, and that, therefore, her election fell through." Misleading and ipplicable as this reason has been shown to be, it was sufficient to stifle further remon- strance ; and that is, I suppose, what the British Medical Journal means by saying that " the members deliberately chose to drop her out because she was a woman ;" the essential baseness of this manoeuvre lying in the fact that it was carefully kept out of sight of all, and from the knowledge of the person moat interested, upon whom it was sprung like a mine, neither expected nor prepared for.
But I shall go further, and say that I am assured on good authority that the statement or rumour is current " that she was excluded in order to vex her husband because of his action in the Vivisection question." This I cannot doubt, however much I may regret it, but I hope that the next time I feel called upon to have the courage of my opinions I shall not be found wanting, especially when experience has given me a better right to form those opinions than that possessed by 99 per cent. of my opponents.
But, Sir, without referring to other inaccuracies in the remarks of the British Medical Journal, allow me to place the case shortly before the public, from our point of view, in which it has notyet been presented. Four years ago, my wife, knowing that one woman and some gentlemen possessing reputable, although unregistrable, de- grees, were members of the British Medical Association, applied also for admission. The usual printed form of application was filled up by her, and her fitness for membership was certified from personal knowledge by gentlemen eminent alike in the profession and in the Association. This form was then forwarded to the General Secretary, who, I understand, in the usual course of duty, included the name in the usual printed list of candidates, which was forwarded to all the members of the Committee of Council long before the day of election arrived.
Shortly afterwards the usual form, signed by the Secretary, was received by her, informing her that on a certain date she had been elected a member of the British Medical Association. Since then she has regularly paid her annual subscription, received her receipts, and enjoyed generally the privileges of membership. Hitherto all had been fair and open on the part of all concerned ; she had done her part well, but she had no power to control either the mode or regularity of election. For it, the Associa- tion was responsible. After some years a dispute arises for which ahe is in no way responsible, The Association pretends, or be- lieves, that her election was irregular, and that of many others like- wise, and it was advised to rectify them. There can be no doubt )bat if an error had been committed; the fault lay entirely with the Association, which was therefore bound (to use the exprea- sion the British Medical Journal complains of), in justice, legality, and common honesty, to do all in its power to rectify its error, without prejudice to those who had done their parts well in the matter. Did the British Medical Association do this? No ; it elected the others, but excluded Mrs. Hoggan, by means of as poor a trick as ever disgraced an honourable Association.—