The Death of the President
The medical journals
and many of the newspapers have contained more or less complete
reports of the illness of the president, the findings at the autopsy,
and the report of the surgeons. The case has been talked over between
lay and medical men, and many suggestions have been offered as explanatory
of the final outcome.
Naturally, the surgeons have been
criticised for their favorable opinions given out in bulletins,
the consequent unfortunate absence of the vice-president, the sudden
collapse of the patient, the administration of semisolid foods,
and the inability of the surgeons to more accurately gauge the extent
and character of the wound.
The findings at the autopsy demonstrated
beyond any question of doubt the impossibility of recovery, and
have done much to soften criticism so freely offered.
The lay as well as many medical minds
still comment upon the over-confidence and haste of the surgeons
in expressing a belief that the wound was not serious, and that
the president would surely recover. One layman has expressed a belief
that this unfortunate episode is the hardest blow ever given the
medical profession, and one from which it will take long to recover.
Such comments may be expected for a time. Calm consideration will
gradually overcome this idea, and the people will admit, with the
physician, that no one is infallible, and that we all err at times.
When one looks at the question from
all standpoints, no harmful criticism will remain. Everything was
done and by the best surgeons in the state, and no fault can be
found with their work or the inevitable outcome.
American Medicine says very plainly,
in an editorial, that the internalist should have been called in
with the first surgeon, and should have been active in the subsequent
consultations. No fair-minded man will doubt the wisdom of this
comment, particularly when a case of such severity and prominence
is to occupy the attention of the entire country.
The actual cause of death has not
been very satisfactorily explained. Shock, sepsis from gangrene,
ptomain [sic] poisoning, contusion of the heart, poisoning
of the bullet, injury of the pancreas, and a few other possibilities,
are suggested, but none are wholly reasonable.
Do not the rapid pulse and the frequency
of respiration, together with the infiltrated fatty heart, suggest
the possibility of a renal insufficiency as the primary and underlying
cause of failure of repair in the wounds? As yet no report has been
given out in which a systematic urine analysis was made. The record
simply states that the kidneys were somewhat contracted.
It is commendable to note the harmony
among the attending staff. Never at any time was there a serious
disagreement or misunderstanding. When we take into account the
prominence of the invalid, the clamor for information, the apparent
rapid improvement, it is not strange that the surgeons should be
carried away by confidence and hope of recovery. Yet beneath it
all, everything that science could do, was done by competent, scientific
men, who could not see into the depths of nature and her methods
of destruction and repair.