Source: Memphis Medical Monthly
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “President McKinley’s Death”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 21
Issue number: 10
|“President McKinley’s Death.” Memphis Medical Monthly Oct. 1901 v21n10: pp. 553-54.|
|William McKinley (death: personal response); William McKinley (medical condition); William McKinley (death, cause of); William McKinley (medical care: personal response).|
President McKinley’s Death
A few days ago the profession as a whole were felicitating themselves upon the excellent results being obtained in the case of the President by the skill of the surgeons in attendance upon the honored victim to the would be assassin’s bullet, and the favorable bulletins that were almost hourly being published by these surgeons caused a feeling of general rejoicing throughout not merely the United States but the entire civilized world. But this season of rejoicing was broken by a sudden change in the President’s condition, and within forty-eight hours after the last favorable bulletin was issued the President breathed his last.
The revelations of the autopsy in this case have shown that a gangrenous process developed in the track of the bullet which pierced the walls of the stomach, a totally unlooked for result, and one that could not have been prevented by any known human means. This gangrenous process had evidently developed during the last two or three days of the distinguished patient’s illness, and death followed no more speedily than is usually the case in such conditions. 
It seems that a singular fatality is associated with operative procedures upon heads of government.
While the mortality from gunshot wounds of the abdomen is more than 50%, even under the most advantageous circumstances of modern aseptic and antiseptic surgery, it is not an unusual thing for recovery to follow in cases that have been operated upon for even graver lesions than were apparent in the President’s case. This is true especially in the South, where gunshot wounds, frequently occurring in persons of low station and unhygienic surroundings, are daily operated for, and a gratifying proportion of these cases go on to recovery. Unfortunately, however, even with a staff of surgeons of not merely national but also international reputation, this exalted patient was not permitted to recover, and the autopsy revealed the reason of this. That the President was of low vitality from his sedentary life must be inferred, and therefore his lack of power of resistance explained. But no matter what the bodily health of the individual, it may be well to add, where gangrene had developed as in this case, the result would have been the same.
No word of censure should be brought to bear upon the surgeons here concerned, for certainly they did all that modern surgical skill and knowledge could dictate to prevent this sad termination, and we can only console ourselves in the last words of the departed President—“It is God’s way; His will be done.”