Monday, March 22, 2010

Doctor, doctor

Monday, March 22, 2010
Loretta reports:

It's not 1810 and we're not miserable objects, most of us, but I wonder whether there's anyone out there who doesn't recognize this doctor-patient scenario.

I have been carried to one of the hospitals of this great town, supported by voluntary contributions. I shall relate what I saw. The physician, seated at a table in a large hall on the ground-floor, with a register before him, ordered the door to be opened; a crowd of miserable objects, women, pushed in, and ranged themselves along the wall; he looked in his book, and called them to him successively. Such a one! The poor wretch, leaving her wall, crawled to the table. " How is your catarrh ?" " Please your honour, no offence I hope, it is the asthma. I have no rest night nor day, and "—" Ah, so it is an asthma! It is somebody else who has the catarrh. Well, you have been ordered to take, &c." —" Yes, Sir, but I grow worse and worse, and—" —" That is nothing, you must go on with it,"—" But, Sir, indeed I cannot."—" Enough, enough, good woman, I cannot listen to you any more ; many patients to get through this morning,—never do to hear them talk,—go, and take your draught, &c."—The catarrh woman made way for a long train of victims of consumption, cases of fever, dropsy, scrofula, and some disorders peculiar to women, detailed, without any ceremony, before young students…

… There is, however, more indifference than ignorance here; for in no part of the world is the art of medicine carried farther than in London ; and, without being at all qualified to judge, the mere circumstance of this art and those who practice it being so much more respected here than in France, is sufficient to convince me of their superiority. In France, surgery is honoured, while medicine is slighted. Moliere has much to answer for this; and if Shakespeare had taken it into his head to laugh at physicians, there is no knowing how they would fare in England at this day.

Journal of a tour and residence in Great Britain: during the years 1810 and 1811 by Louis Simond.

Illustration above left is an 1820 view of Guy's Hospital.  Below right is Middlesex Hospital from Ackermann's Microcosm of London (1808)You can see a larger, sharper image at Motco.  More about the Microcosm here.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Particularly apt on this historic morning!

Jane O said...

My goodness, two hundred years and that doctor is still practicing!

Vanessa Kelly said...

I feel for the poor woman with asthma! A "draught" could hardly compete with the soot and dirt she had to inhale every day.

The really scary part is that those poor folks were the lucky ones. I believe that in most cases, patients could only see a doctor at hospital if he/she had a recommendation from one of the governors on the hospital board.

Prostitutes and the unworthy poor need not apply.

Mme.Tresbeau said...

Interesting that as a Frenchman he has so little regard for French medicine. I wonder if his opinion was universal in France as well at the time, or a more personal view after he'd the opportunity for a comparison with the English system?

Susan Holloway Scott said...

The thought of going to ANY of those early medical men makes me queasy.
"Allow me to employ the scarifier, madame, or perhaps you prefer the leeches?"

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