Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Last month, a post at Frances Hunter's American Heroes Blog, entitled Lewis & Clark's Medicine Chest, gave rise in the comments to some speculation as to whether those who lacked access to medical care in the 18th and early 19th Centuries were better off for it. Was there any empirical evidence to support the proposition?

A post at overcomingbias suggests an affirmative answer, at least with respect to pneumonia patients. The post quotes a book entitled Hard Facts as follows:

Bloodletting was used routinely until 1836 when French physician Pierre Louis conducted one of the first clinical trials in medicine. Louis compared pneumonia patients whom he treated with aggressive bloodletting and those he treated without it. Louis found that bloodletting was linked to far more deaths. . . . George Washington, the first president of the United States, . . . died two days after a doctor treated his sore throat by draining almost five pints of blood.

H/T Lawprof Mike Rappaport at The Right Coast.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Thanks for the link and the expansion of this idea! I wonder if you can add some of the other early presidents who died -- Zachary Taylor, William Henry Harrison, even James Garfield, to the list? Maybe you were better off if you couldn't afford access to medical care. Food for thought ...


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