The Present and the Past
issue of the M N
we present to our readers a short authentic account of the surgical
features of the recent shooting of President McKinley, gathered
by one of our staff from those in charge of the patient at Buffalo.
We also publish a short summary of the illness of President Garfield
and wish here to point out some of the more important differences
which come to mind in comparing two somewhat analogous surgical
From the very beginning the cases
are not comparable, within strict lines, but there are undoubtedly
certain features which reflect a great difference in surgical procedures
of the present day and those of twenty years ago.
The modern modes of conveyance whereby
an injured man is readily and easily conveyed to a hospital equipped
with all necessary appliances suggest one phase of difference in
the treatment of President McKinley in contrast with that of President
Garfield. No surgeon in a large city at the present day, save in
the most extreme emergency, would think of examining a wound without
the proper facilities and under the strictest antiseptic precautions.
Temporary expedients are rejected
by the modern operator who has, under the teachings of antiseptic
surgery, practically no dread of doing almost anything in the way
of operative interference. The immediate and fearless opening of
the abdominal cavity, with the direct desire of seeing with the
eyes the damage done by the missile, marks another step which the
methods of twenty years ago would not permit.
Should it subsequently become necessary
to find and extirpate the bullet in President McKinley, physical
science has placed in our hands the means whereby it may be located
with an accuracy beyond a doubt. Had the use of the Roentgen ray
been among the acquisitions of a former generation, it is more than
probable that the secondary hemorrhage which took the life of President
Garfield would not have occurred and that the removal of the bullet
in the early days of his illness, and the appreciation of the injury
to the bony structures of the spinal column, which also might have
been detected by the use of these light rays, would have resulted
in more radical and successful surgery.
The surgeons of that day lived up
to the fullest of their opportunities. Let us be thankful that medical
research has raised the level of the opportunities of the present
generation to a much higher plane.