This delightful case was reported in the London Medical and Surgical Journal in 1835, having previously appeared in a Greek journal, the Sother. The original article was by a Dr Ardoin – a Frenchman, it appears, in practice in Greece. His patient was a young boy called Demetrius Stamatelli:
On the 19th July last, when M. Ardoin was called to see this youth, he found him suffering from acute pains in the abdomen. He prescribed several remedies, none of which in the least assuaged his torments, and he so far gave up all hope of saving the patient, that he recommended the administration of the sacrament.
Though he appeared to be at death’s door, the unfortunate boy recovered.
The next day he gave him an emetic cathartic, which produced at first slight vomiting; this lasted a short time, when the vomiting returned with excessive pain, and at length he vomited a foetus by the mouth.
The head of the foetus was well developed, also one arm perfectly formed; it had no inferior extremities, but merely a fleshy prolongation, thin at the extremity, and attached to the placenta by a kind of umbilical cord. Three days afterwards the patient was much better, all the morbid symptoms were diminished, and he has since continued to improve.
The report concludes with Dr Ardoin’s final observation on the case.
“I carried the foetus to my house, and there, in the presence of all the medical men at Syra, but more particularly of M.M. Milonas and Corco, examined very minutely this anatomical production, which we recognised to be a human foetus. Afterwards we preserved it in spirits. I made it thus public, so that it might not be considered any imposition.”
What had happened? Assuming the events took place as described, it’s possible that this was a case of a parasitic twin: the boy had shared his mother’s womb with another foetus which had been absorbed into his own body. Such cases are rare but not unheard-of – although it is exceptional for a parasitic twin to be expelled through the alimentary canal.