Was President McKinley’s Case Badly Managed?
who does not care to have his name mentioned asks this question.
The editor of the G
fully appreciates the surprise and bitter disappointment that naturally
followed the sudden and fatal termination of this phenomenal case
after the hopeful announcements made by the eminent medical staff
in attendance. In the very midst of services of praise and thanksgiving
for the assurances of a sure and quick recovery came the blighting
despatch [sic] that the President was dying!
We do not feel competent to criticize
the treatment adopted by the eminent staff of medical and surgical
advisers who gave such unremitting attention to the illustrious
patient. If we were so disposed we have not the necessary data.
“Beef tea” is not now considered of much value as food, and chicken
soup is far from ideal, except among grandmas and domestic doctors.
But the daily press may have substituted these names for other products
of similar origin but of far more value. Reporters are marvelously
wise, but they frequently perpetrate medical bulls that are decidedly
funny when they are not too serious.
We do not, therefore, agree with those
professional critics who assert that the President was starved to
We cannot understand how the medical
men in attendance could commit themselves to such a hopeful prognosis
in the face of the persistently high pulse-rate. The temperature,
as reported, was never excessively high, but the pulse-rate remained
most or all the time after the shooting above 120.
Such a pulse in a man of President
McKinley’s reputed vigor is ominous of great danger. It indicated
severe vital depression. The attendant symptoms and the outcome
prove that the physical condition of the patient was far from vigorous.
The enormous and persistent strain imposed upon the head of a powerful
nation, undergoing years of political stress, such as it has not
known since the days of the Rebellion, is enough to try the best
constitutions. When we add to this the terrible suspense and constant
anxiety from the domestic trial through which President McKinley
had just passed, and from which he could not have fully recovered,
it is not to be wondered at that he could not recover from a gunshot
wound that but a few years back would have been considered inevitably
To this may be added that he was an
inveterate smoker, which certainly does not add to the chances of
any invalid. One eminent critic of the treatment of the dead President
expresses the opinion that his smoking had nothing to do with the
fatal result; but we suspect that this commentator is himself a
smoker. The heart-walls were described as very thin. It was undoubtedly
to a certain degree a “smoker’s heart,” and for that reason certainly
succumbed more easily.
We think the President died because
his system was vitally degenerate and could not recoup from the
shock of the assassin’s bullet, as a more vigorous system, seconded
by the rare surgical skill so promptly and efficiently invoked,
would surely have done. Gangrene does not occur in tissues that
are made scrupulously aseptic, as was surely done in this case,
and that are normally nourished and vitally up to par.