There is perhaps no purgative with which the gastroenterologist is more familiar than liquid petrolatum. This familiarity results in thoughtlessness in its use. Our study of the deleterious effects of this type of drug makes us wonder whether or not the almost routine prescribing of liquid petrolatum has not bred through thoughtlessness and ignorance a serious disregard for the patient's welfare.
The wide use of liquid petrolatum seems to be based on empirical considerations which make little sense when examined critically. Its chemistry is to say the least uncertain and its pharmacologic action a matter of dispute. Some contend that it acts by mechanically softening the feces1; others hold that it undergoes emulsification2 and still others assert that it speeds up peristalsis by its irritative action on the mucous membrane.3 On the other hand, mechanistic conditioning in a machine age has produced the current concept by analogy