Source: Clinical Reporter
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “A Retrospect”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 14
Issue number: 10
|“A Retrospect.” Clinical Reporter Oct. 1901 v14n10: pp. 392-93.|
|William McKinley (recovery: speculation); William McKinley (medical care: criticism: personal response); William McKinley (medical care).|
|The identity of Cohen (below) cannot be determined.|
No crime in the annals of this country has so
shocked the people and cast such universal gloom over the land as has the assassination
of President McKinley for as has often been said: “He was a man of the people
and the people loved him.”
But this paper is not a place to discuss the martyr and his merits and we do not at this time care to discuss the crime or the criminal—these have their reward—but certain features and actions have arisen during the illness of the illustrious patient that call for more than passing notice from the medical profession.
It was only a very short time after the deplorable accident until we find a number of medical men who had been “interviewed” on the subject and who without any reserve or hesitation gave their opinion regarding the prognosis and the relative chances for the recovery of the President.
This was done in the face of the silence of the attending surgeons and the fact that in spite of the great solicitude as well as the popular pressure brought to bear upon those in attendance, they gave but little assurance and for the most part only hopeful utterances.
It will be observed that most of the mathematical statements made to the press, in St. Louis at least, were made by those who had seen the smallest number of cases of gunshot wounds, and not a few rushed into print,—oh beg pardon? were forced to make prognostications, who had never treated such a wound in their whole short life.
And then—when success seemed to be about to crown the efforts of those in attendance and the rapid, fatal, sinking supervened instead, what did the medical profession do? Criticise those who had done all that mortal could do, and even try to cast reflection on their actions.
The homœopath was not in it,” [sic] only one of these boldly asserted “that the chances were good” though criticisms made by the local surgeons upon the management of the case were illtimed and without weight what can we think, when we find such men as Cohen of Philadelphia, who rushed into the public print almost as soon as the last breath was drawn and criticised bitterly, certain actions in the conduct and management of the President’s illness.
Any one who has made a study of this class of injuries knows there is a bruised area around a bullet wound and there follows as a result of such bruising (excepting of course the effect of the newer firearm where the tissue is punched out as though cut) more or less necrosis. This necrosis  is as a rule taken care of by absorption and the wound heals uneventfully.
In case of a person whose age is advanced beyond the period of fifty years and the life has been exacting—the repair process is slow and sometimes arrested as it was in the case of the President.
It is beyond the power of human skill to tell the exact hour at which such death of tissue begins and the effort at healing ceases.
The surgeons in this case did that for which the highest authorities and the best judgment of every one commended them, and it was a wonderful display of courage, a wonderful fortitude of spirit[,] strength of nerve and commendable skill that enabled them to operate when and as they did. The course of the illness afterward showed that the work had been well done and when the limit of the fourth day had been reached it is little wonder that the surgeons and the whole country were optimistic.
But there is always somebody who is the height of wisdom, and, as we have before stated in this journal they are found in professional ranks; they can do nothing wrong themselves and desire to pass judment [sic] on everybody else and their work. It is disgusting and a disgrace. How can any man who has not seen and whose only knowledge is from necessarily meager reports, judge of the merits and demerits of the case and the judgment of the operator? The mighty mind of these critics none can comprehend.