A glance through the excellent report of Surg. Moses F. Bassett, of the Fourth District, will show how exceedingly valuable an equally full statement of results and opinions from each of our thirteen districts would have been, while with proper supervision in the past even that report could have been made much richer and better. I would earnestly advise that the results of past experience in the medical branch be still saved to the country, as far as possible, in the form of special reports, &c., to be made by competent officers detailed for that purpose.
10. Government attorney.-I would also respectfully recommend to the Provost-Marshal-General the expediency of designating, should operations be resumed, a legal adviser of approved ability and discretion, to take post at the headquarters of the acting assistant provost-marshals-general of States during the progress of drafting, to whom questions involving principles of a purely legal character might be referred for his opinion, counsel, and advice. The expense to the Government would be inconsiderable, as the time during which the services of such a person would be needed would not be long, while the benefits of a prompt and reliable determination of legal questions, in the midst of the hurry and excitement of a draft, would be of the greatest value.
The Provost-Marshal-General is aware that legal points, upon which the military officers of the Government are not supposed to be prepared to give an authoritative opinion, are constantly arising, and during the progress of a draft it is often impossible to submit such points to the Provost-Marshal-General in time to answer the emergency.
11. Medical examinations.-It is with deference submitted that the minute description and detailed statement of the disqualifying and nondisqualifying diseases and infirmities, the presence or absence of which is made by regulations the test of the fitness or unfitness of a recruit or drafted man for military duty, should be abolished; and that instead it should simply be provided that all men found upon careful examination to be, in the judgment of the surgeon, mentally and physically capable of active military service, shall be accepted and enlisted, and all not found to be so capable shall be rejected.
In my estimation the minuteness and prolixity of existing instructions relative to medical examinations perplex and embarrass more than they aid the judgment of surgeons. A conscientious surgeon will reject a man of whose actual ability for duty he has no moral doubt, because the regulations seem to him so to require, while a dishonest surgeon will, for a consideration, reject a man under pretense of some technical disability having no existence in fact, but to which his construction of the prescribed rules give color of truth. And, worst of all, under a similar plea of technical necessity a bad or malicious surgeon may send to the field a man more fit for a hospital than for the Army, and thus perpetrate a crime against humanity little better than constructive murder.
I am satisfied that many instances have occurred under each of the three classes above described, especially under the first and second classes, while it has been impossible, as the rules stand, to correct the error in the first case, or to detect and punish the crime in the second and third cases. It would seem plain that competent and honest surgeons do not need such minute specifications, while on the other hand dishonest or incompetent surgeons are as likely to be misled by them as to be assisted, or to willfully misconstrue or abuse them for their own private ends.