heard of a quack?
does malpractice mean to you?
There were numerous
medical practices during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
that were considered to be less than orthodox. While it may seem
like common sense to someone today that many of these methods of
treatment wouldn't work, it seemed like it was a medical breakthrough
wrote Frankenstein in 1818. Percy, writing the introduction to the
second edition, makes reference to "German physiologists"in
asserting the reanimation of the dead is "not of impossible
tract stones were a common and serious problem at this time.
The pain was so intense that patients often consented to painful,
life-threatening surgery for a chance at relief. Dr Benjamin
Bell's ascribed technique for stone removal is described:
surgeon's left index finger was placed in the patient's rectum;
the operator's right hand pushed in the suprapubic area to push
the stone so that it bulged into the perineum; a transverse incision
in front of the anus and through the bladder at the trigone was
completed rapidly; the stone was pushed out by the finger in the
rectum; if severe hemorrhage developed the patient was placed in
hot water; the wound was dressed with wool soaked in warm water.
William Cheselden (1688-1752) of St Thomas' Hospital in London performed
312 lithotomies and lost only 20 patients. In other hands, the mortality
rate approached 50%.
Dr. Elisha Perkins circa 1800
1796 Dr. Elisha Perkins was expelled by the Connecticut Medical
Society for having reintroduced the practice of the theory
of animal magnetism. She used metallic instruments to stroke
pained areas of the body as a method of healing.
instruments, known as " Tractors" were two pieces
of metal, pointed at one end, rounded at the other, about
three inches long and resembled horseshoe nails.
the affected areas with this instrument was to bring relief
now believe that the success of these tractors relies mostly
on having faith in the treatment.
image at the right shows Galvanic Tractors in a leather case
which were made by Elisha Perkins, M.D. 1798, and are made
of combinations of copper, zinc, gold, iron, & silver.
Menczer Museum of Medicine and Dentistry
of the Hartford Medical and the Hartford Dental Societies.
was a popular suggestion for various maladies, from headaches
to ingrown toenails.
healthcare in England often relied upon bleeding as a cure
for menstruation. This was not considered a monthly inconvience,
but rather a horrible experience.
28 days, elite women would seek treatment from their physicians.
The physicians would cure the woman's bleeding by using leeches.
medicinal use of leeches became so popular in the mid-nineteenth
century that the medicinal leech, H. medicinalis, became an
France, which previously had harvested its own leeches, was
forced to import approximately 40 million leeches in 1833
to meet the demand.
Joseph Victor Broussais, a prominent physician at the start
of the nineteenth century. Broussais was one of the first who
promoted the leech as nature's most sublime cure-all. He believed
that the parasite was able to such all harmful chemicals from
the human body. However, his theory did not hold true. His theories
of leech therapy led to numerous deaths, including the death
of his star pupil, a young student who looked up to Broussais
as his mentor.
student wanted to help demonstrate Broussais' theory of treatment,
so he inoculated himself with fresh syphilitic pus containing
the active organism before an audience. A few days later, the
student was experiencing skin lesions that were characteristic
of the beginning stages of the disease. Broussais claimed, however,
that the red sores were merely a "local" infection
and that the truly dangerous disease lay in the intestines and
could be sucked out by leeches. The student allowed his mentor
to use leeches to bleed the disease out of his body. But the
sores did not heal and eventually grew larger and ruptured causing
swelling of the student's glands in his armpits, groin and along
the clavicle. Within a few weeks of the experiment, the student
committed suicide, as his beliefs in medicine were shattered
and his health deteriorated.
was one of many unfortunate people who feel victim to experimental
methods of medical treatment. But, it seemed that even in death,
not everyone was safe from doctors who wished to learn more about
humans, medicine and ways the two could be combined together to
create new treatments.
were not allowed to dissect donated and unclaimed bodies for medical
research before 1832, often times these doctors found alternate
ways to carry out their work.
shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled
among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living
animal to animate the lifeless clay?" - Victor Frankenstein
the Anatomy Act of that year, practical research and instruction
in human anatomy in Britain had depended on judicial executions
as the sole legitimate source of corpses.
the law is not always abided by. There were never sufficient
numbers of cadavers to meet the needs of medical experts
and scientists. So, people began searching for corpses on
activities of the so-called `bodysnatchers', who dug up
freshly-buried bodies and sold them to anatomists for the
advancement of science, have been documented in great detail.
But the largest clue to these actions, are the dissected
appears that dissections before 1832 were far more common
than has been thought.
Photographic reproduction of an engraving from William Cheselden
(1688-1752), Osteographia, or, The Anatomy of the Bones, 1733
National Library of Medicine Collection
Frankenstein wanted to create his own living creature. His
goal was to bring about life from death. While trying to bring
life to his creature, Victor raided cemeteries to gather body
parts for his work.
out more about Victor Frankenstein and his relationship with
science, click on the "Victor Frankenstein" link