Do no harm – unless it’s a criminal

In 1875 the British Medical Journal had some fun digging around in the archives: BARBAROUS PUNISHMENT: A SURGEON’S OCCUPATION. – 1720, March 29th. On Wednesday, Thomas Hayes, formerly the commander of a merchantman, stood in the pillory at Charing Cross, for the hour of twelve to one, when a surgeon, attended by the prison officers, … Continue reading Do no harm – unless it’s a criminal

A 19th-century doctor’s guide to etiquette

In the nineteenth century the medical profession had something of an image problem.  The archetype of the pompous or unscrupulous doctor was well established, and authors like Charles Dickens had much fun sending them up with satirical depictions which were painfully close to the mark.  In The Pickwick Papers, the young doctor Bob Sawyer uses … Continue reading A 19th-century doctor’s guide to etiquette

Such is the fortitude of females

Rhinoplasty is one of the oldest surgical operations, known to have been practised by the Indian surgeon Sushruta in the 1st millennium BC, and with great sophistication in the 17th century by the Italian physician Gaspare Tagliacozzi, who created new noses from the muscles of the upper arm. This case reported in the 1830s in … Continue reading Such is the fortitude of females

The cod-liver oil binge

Lupus is an autoimmune disease characterised by a skin rash, joint pain and fatigue.  Although poorly understood even today, it is known to be caused by an anomalous response of the body’s immune system, which erroneously begins to attack otherwise healthy tissue. In 1852, when the Canada Medical Journal reported this case, the condition was … Continue reading The cod-liver oil binge

The self-performed caesarian

A jaw-dropping case was reported in The New York Medical and Physical Journal in 1823, one in which a patient conducted an operation on herself.  The best-known example of self-operation occurred in 1961, when a Soviet surgeon working on an Antarctic base was forced to take out his own infected appendix; this much earlier case … Continue reading The self-performed caesarian

Opium – perfect for babies

In 1849 Mrs Charlotte Winslow of Bangor in Maine invented a medicinal product for children which was as successful in its day as Calpol is now.  Any comparison must, however, end there. ‘Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup’ was marketed as an effective analgesic, to be given to teething infants and older children with indigestion.  A contemporary advertisement … Continue reading Opium – perfect for babies

Fingers crossed

A short but – to me – fascinating article from the Medico-Chirurgical Review. Surgeons are now quite adept at reattaching fingers, toes or even entire hands after cases of accidental amputation, assuming the separated part has been carefully preserved: celebrated cases include Arsenio Matias, who had both hands reattached after an industrial accident, and Everett Knowles, … Continue reading Fingers crossed