President McKinley’s Operation
“The operation was
eminently successful, but the patient is dead,” is an old saying
too often used by the uninitiated as a term of reproach against
the surgeon. That the operation can be eminently successful, and
the patient still die, has been illustrated in the sudden and unexpected
death of President McKinley. All that surgical skill could do was
done, and the patient was placed in a position that not only made
his recovery possible, but very probable.
Behind every pathological condition,
however, which the physician is called upon to treat is that unknown
personal equation, which, other things being equal, determines the
final result. Why in the case of one a violent peritonitis intervenes,
in another no reaction, while in still another gangrene and death
of the tissues, depends not so much on the agent as the individual.
The President’s treatment can in no way reflect on the progress
of surgery in this country, or the skill of our surgeons. That portion
of his injury which was amenable to surgical skill was promptly
and thoroughly met, and only to that still unknown factor can his
death be attributed.