Publication information

Medical News
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Traitors in the Ranks”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: 28 September 1901
Volume number: 79
Issue number: 13
Pagination: 503

“Traitors in the Ranks.” Medical News 28 Sept. 1901 v79n13: p. 503.
full text
William McKinley (medical care: criticism: personal response).
Named persons
William McKinley.

Traitors in the Ranks

     IMMEDIATELY following the death and autopsy of the late President, there appeared signed articles in the daily press from several prominent physicians in this city, and an editorial in a leading medical journal, openly criticizing the physicians who attended President McKinley in a manner that has stung the whole medical fraternity into expressions of shame and scorn—shame that the editor of a journal that has always upheld the honor and dignity of the profession should have stooped from his high position to traduce by innuendo and covert criticism the medical men who attended the late President; scorn that any physician should have sunk to the level of the scandal mongers of the sensational press and deliberately suggest to an excited and believing public weapons of suspicion to be used at random against the men who have handled this famous case.
     It can readily be imagined that it must have been trying to the yellow journals that the X-ray apparatus was not used, and that they were defrauded of a skiagram of the dying President; but that any physician should sneer at the conscientious conclusions reached by the anxious surgeons to dispense with the X-rays and should state concerning this opinion that “it seemed safer to guess than to be sure” is, we feel, little short of an insult. “What excuse,” is asked, “must be offered to the public for the utter inability to find the bullet even in the dead body?” But why, we ask, should the sympathetic, overwrought public think of demanding excuses from the medical men who by their strenuous efforts prolonged, for a week, the life of the doomed President, unless the idea had been suggested? To hint to the public that they are aggrieved and that they have a right to ask the surgeons to explain “why they allowed a lost ball to be buried with the victim’s body” is little short of trying to make the Nation’s tragedy a popular spectacle.
     It is not, however, this gallery play that deserves the severest condemnation. It is the subtle way in which many of these articles have been worded so that while they seem to mingle praise for the surgeons with lamentations over the inevitable, they nevertheless convey to the reader a startled sense of suspicion and alarm that all was not done that might have been done. We are ashamed of this utter violation of professional standards, of the manifest unfairness of making charges when the accusers could not possibly be in possession of the full details of the case, of the lack of charity in dealing treacherous, underhand blows to the few and of this holding up to public criticism a vicious cartoon of medical men so prominent that the entire medical profession must bear the scoffs. It is these things that have amazed, pained and angered the American medical brotherhood.
     To so cruelly and maliciously hint that a “fatal blunder in diagnosis has been made,” especially after the autopsy had demonstrated the necessarily fatal character of the wound, is evidence of a very low standard of professional ethics, and it is not to be wondered that the attending surgeons and the medical profession of the country should feel the affront and demand an apology.