Source: Detroit Medical Journal
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Demise of President McKinley”
Date of publication: September 1901
Volume number: 1
Issue number: 6
|“Demise of President McKinley.” Detroit Medical Journal Sept. 1901 v1n6: pp. 175-76.|
|William McKinley (medical care: criticism); McKinley assassination (poison bullet theory); McKinley assassination (personal response); Theodore Roosevelt.|
|Ida McKinley; William McKinley.|
Click here to see the first of two reader responses to the editorial below.
Click here to see the second of two reader responses to the editorial below.
Demise of President McKinley
We stop the press to announce this deplorable
and sorrowful event which, though sudden, was not altogether unexpected by medical
men who had carefully followed the results accruing to the assassin’s bullet.
“In multiple counsel there is safety” is an ancient and threadbare aphorism that, however true in its application to ordinary affairs, in conditions like those surrounding the bedside of the martyred Chief-Executive is apt to prove delusive. We have no wish or purpose to criticise adversely the medical gentlemen in attendance; admittedly each, individually, is a man more than ordinarily professionally endowed, and possessed of considerable more than a mere local reputation; but on the other hand we can not but feel the sufferer and his medical advisors alike were sadly handicapped by the results accruing to popular clamour, and the demand that no measures, however extraordinary, be left undone—such generally results in overdoing, especially when the patient is possessed of great prominence, and the facts are taken into consideration that, amid a multitude of counsel, clashes of opinion are possible, and no medical man, except one possessed of unusually strong personality, would, in the face of the adverse opinions of colleagues, (and the certainty of misjudgment on the part of the public and professional press), dare to act in any way independently, or to overstep in any particular the boundaries of accustomed routine. We certainly would have had more hope, from the first, if the President had been relegated to the exclusive care of one or two individuals.
Also, we can not but deprecate the unseemly attempts to secure advertising for self and friends on the part of individuals, which led to the importation of an alien nurse, and (at the last moment, when the fatal termination had become inevitable) of physicians from far away cities; both acts appear to reflect upon the ability of those in attendance, and particularly upon nurses and medical fraternity of Buffalo.
Again, the excluding of Mrs. McKinley from her husband’s bedside, and the denial of the accustomed cigar—which was craved, and asked for, and could have worked no possible harm, while it might have obviated certain adverse phenomena—smack of the torture-chamber and medićval superstition more than anything else:—Does not one suppose, if Mrs. McKinley is the woman we take her to be, that these procedures had her sanction, though exclusion was made to appear solely in her interest! Here we have two factors that, seemingly, in the minds of most, of little importance, may have had direct influ[ence] in securing the untoward result. Nothing is more depressing to an invalid than an enforced quiet without any form of physical or mental occupation, especially when surrounded by strange attendants. Apparently, not only was Mrs. McKinley very carefully excluded, but her spouse was left to the “rule-of-thumb” care of an alien “trained” attendant.
We learn the immediate cause of death was “gangrene of both walls of the stomach and pancreas.” It seems passing strange, in the face of previous reports (emanating apparently from authority) that such condition could have existed without being suspected; the character of the pulse, to say the least, was such as to lead to a surmise that some untoward event was threatening. 
One of the theories propounded is, that the bullet of the assassin, with a devilishness almost unprecedented in modern times, was deliberately poisoned, for the purpose of making the fate of the victim doubly certain. This, however, seems highly improbable.
Undoubtedly, there yet remain many facts to be made public that are of interest to the medical profession, and accordingly we await the official and authoritative report. Such data as are at hand, coming as they do through the Associated Press and filtered through the hands of nonprofessional editors, are altogether meagre and unsatisfactory.
The political lessons of the tragedy are many; it is hoped they will be taken full advantage of as regards the future. It is possible that the “grief of the Nation may ultimately prove the Nation’s salvation” in the matter of eradicating the anarchistic and other obnoxious socialistic elements.
Fortunately the executive chair will now be succeeded to by a gentleman possessed of no less great personality than Mr. McKinley, one moreover whom the breath of scandal has not been able to touch, and whose high rectitude and honesty of purpose is unchallengeable.