Publication information

Philadelphia Medical Journal
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Medical Bulletins”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: 19 October 1901
Volume number: 8
Issue number: 16
Pagination: 622

“Medical Bulletins.” Philadelphia Medical Journal 19 Oct. 1901 v8n16: p. 622.
full text
William McKinley (medical care: international response); William McKinley (medical care: criticism: personal response); William McKinley (official bulletins: contents and quality of).
Named persons
Dyce Duckworth; George IV; Henry Halford; William McKinley; Matthew Tierney; Victoria.
The item below is identified in an editorial on pages 620-21 as being a “clipping from the British Medical Journal.” Click here to view that editorial.

Medical Bulletins

     Last Saturday’s Spectator, (British Medical Journal, for October 5, 1901), contained a letter from Sir Dyce Duckworth commencing in rather severe terms upon the communications made to the lay press during the late illness of President McKinley by his medical attendants. Sir Dyce Duckworth expresses the opinion that they were furnished with but slender regard to the decency and respect due to the privacy of the patient, and that many related to matters of treatment which were obviously unfit to be read, much less to be discussed, by the general public. He further speaks of the publication of such bulletins as a new departure and bad example afforded by America. We venture to think that Sir Dyce Duckworth is too severe in his condemnation and historically not quite correct. Everyone must allow that not only was President McKinley, as the Chief Magistrate of the United States, a patient of quite an exceptional position, but its tragic circumstances made the illness of especial interest, while there was an intense and not unnatural desire on the part of the public to be kept accurately informed of the progress of the patient. It is reasonable to make allowances for these circumstances and to recognize, that details were justifiable in this case which would ordinarily be withheld. Moreover, is it correct to say that this practice of publishing details of the illnesses of great persons was unknown a few years ago? We possess a letter written in 1891 by an eminent surgeon (now deceased) to Queen Victoria, a man of long experience and ripe judgment, in which, referring to the subject of medical bulletins, he wrote that such statements have always been published by those “who have been in attendance on members of the Royal Family during serious illness. This custom has been observed longer than anyone living can remember, and its maintenance is not dependent on those by whom these bulletins are signed.” We have referred to the Times for 1830, about the time of the death of George IV, and find that daily bulletins were published and signed by Sir Henry Halford and Sir Matthew Tierney, and that after the King’s death fuller details of the illness were given in the obituary notice. While we share the objection to signed medical bulletins, and the appearance in the newspapers of details from the sick rooms of citizens of more or less public importance, we think it must be held that rulers of States and members of reigning families constitute exceptions. It is quite possible that Sir Dyce Duckworth had in mind particular passages which erred in point of taste, but, speaking generally and from recollection of the official bulletins, we do not think that the physicians and surgeons in attendance upon President McKinley published anything that was unworthy of the medical profession.