Source: Dietetic and Hygienic Gazette
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Was President McKinley’s Case Badly Managed?”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 17
Issue number: 10
|“Was President McKinley’s Case Badly Managed?” Dietetic and Hygienic Gazette Oct. 1901 v17n10: p. 625.|
|William McKinley (medical care: personal response); William McKinley (medical care: criticism); William McKinley (medical condition); William McKinley (death, cause of).|
Was President McKinley’s Case Badly Managed?
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 death.
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 fatal.
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.