Heroic medicineheroic medicine, heroic medicine ethical issues
Heroic medicine, also referred to as heroic depletion theory, was a therapeutic method advocating for rigorous treatment of bloodletting, purging, and sweating to shock the body back to health after an illness caused by a humoral imbalance Rising to the front of orthodox medical practice in the "Age of Heroic Medicine" 1780–1850, it fell out of favor in the mid-19th century as more gentle, palliative treatments became the norm
- 1 History
- 2 Practices
- 3 Fall of heroic medicine
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Pockets of medical methodology that can be classified as "heroic" appear in the early 17th century with Parisian physician Guy Patin and French anatomist Jean Riolan the Younger Patin, nicknamed "Le Grand Saigneur" the Grand Bloodletter, was infamous for his rigorous procedure plans, which included intensive courses of bloodletting and application of senna Because heroic medicine used popular techniques, it is difficult to absolutely classify a healer's therapeutic epistemology as heroic Intensive bloodletting treatments can be identified throughout American history, with William Douglass in Massachusetts advocating for a heroic treatment plan in the early 18th century While there were practitioners here and there who were particularly eager to perform aggressive treatment, heroic medicine did not become a concentrated school of thought until later in the 18th century
Many associate Benjamin Rush with an abrupt acceptance of heroic techniques into the realm of mainstream medicine, especially in America Founding father, creator of University of Pennsylvania’s medical school, and known as the "American Hippocrates," Rush was well respected and revered in the medical field The Philadelphia Yellow Fever outbreak in 1793 is looked upon as a major event in the merging of heroic medicine into the course of best practices in the medical profession Much of the city was left incapacitated by the rampant epidemic As healers fled the city, Rush bravely remained to treat people, and ultimately himself, with drastic regimens of intensive bloodlettings and purgatives He taught many students who then carried the tradition to other parts of the United States Varied in its influence, heroic medicine was particularly concentrated around Pennsylvania and spread into other locations The term "heroic medicine" was coined later in the mid-19th century to describe extreme treatment
Heroic medicine was used to treat George Washington on his deathbed in 1799 He was bled repeatedly and given MercuryI chloride calomel and several blisters of cantharidin to induce sweating Washington died shortly after receiving this rigorous heroic treatment
Heroic medicine was very much in the hands of the professional, as the invasive interventions involved were beyond the capabilities of rustic practitioners Symptoms were not regarded as the body's attempt to fight the disease, but were considered a complication that would exacerbate the patient's condition and do further harm Practitioners believed that a fever should be suppressed and any drugs used should be powerful and given in large dosages Under this onslaught, domestic medicine dwindled in importance; even treatments that had been found effective in the past were relegated to the realms of old-fashioned folk medicine
Heroic medicine does not have a definitive start date, as its treatments themselves were not new to the field of medicine Bloodletting, purging, and sweating are cemented firmly in medical tradition back to the advent of humoral theory in the time of Hippocrates and Galen With hopes of rebalancing the body's delicate homeostasis of four humors – black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood – the careful manipulation of bodily discharge, like bleeding and evacuation, was believed to nudge the body back to its healthy, natural state The physician's role was always to monitor the path of the body's humoral levels back to normal
Heroic medicine takes this methodology to the extreme, draining significant volumes of blood and ordering intensive regimens of evacuation It was not uncommon for physicians to strive to drain up to 80 percent of a patient's blood volume Likewise, dramatic evacuations, both by pharmacological emetics and laxatives, induced the forceful removal of bodily fluid Commonly used emetics include senna and tartar emetic General intestinal cleansing was instigated by massive doses of calomel, to the point of acute mercury poisoning Sweating was also induced using blisters of cantharidin and diaphoretic
Fall of heroic medicine
Heroic medicine became less favored with the rise of safer placebos such as hydrotherapy and homeopathy Even during its heyday, heroic medicine faced criticism from physicians and alternative medicine healers, who pushed for more natural cures
While is easy to discuss and question the ethical implications of such a severe course of treatment, it is important to remember that in the time period physicians were operating under their best understanding of the body and its physiology There were dissenting voices at the time, but heroic medicine remained an important, legitimate part of the medical tradition in this era
- Heroic measure
- ^ Singh, Simon; Ernst, Edzard 2008 Trick Or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine W W Norton & Company p 108 ISBN 978-0-393-06661-6
- ^ Flint, August 1874 Essays on Conservative Medicine
- ^ a b c d Sullivan, R B 1994 "Sanguine practices: A historical and historiographic reconsideration of heroic therapy in the age of Rush" Bulletin of the History of Medicine 68 2: 211–34 PMID 8049598
- ^ a b c Lindemann, Mary 2010 Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe Cambridge: Cambridge p 117 ISBN 978-0-521-73256-7
- ^ Stavrakis, P 1997 "Heroic medicine, bloodletting, and the sad fate of George Washington" Maryland Medical Journal 46 10: 539–40 PMID 9392943
- ^ Cohen, Ben 2005 "The Death of George Washington 1732–99 and the History of Cynanche" Journal of Medical Biography 13 4: 225–31 doi:101177/096777200501300410 PMID 16244717
- ^ Schmidt, P J 2002 "Transfuse George Washington!" Transfusion 42 2: 275–7 doi:101046/j1537-2995200200033x PMID 11896346
- ^ https://wwwpbsorg/newshour/updates/dec-14-1799-excruciating-final-hours-president-george-washington/
- ^ Cheatham, M L 2008 "The death of George Washington: An end to the controversy" The American Surgeon 74 8: 770–4 PMID 18705585
- ^ Lyng, Stephen 1990 Holistic Health and Biomedical Medicine: A Countersystem Analysis SUNY Press pp 175–9 ISBN 978-0-7914-0256-6
- ^ Bynum, W E 1996 Scientific Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century Cambridge: Cambridge University Press p 18 ISBN 0-521-25109-5
- ^ Whorton, James 2002 Nature Cures: The History of Alternative Medicine in America Oxford University Press
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