Publication information

Physical Culture
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Comments of Physicians”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 6
Issue number: 1
Pagination: G-H

“Comments of Physicians.” Physical Culture Oct. 1901 v6n1: pp. G-H.
full text
William McKinley (medical care); William McKinley (medical care: criticism); William McKinley (death, cause of).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; Elmer Lee; Charles McBurney; August F. Reinhold; Henry S. Tanner; Julian P. Thomas.
The editorial (below) appears in a separately paginated section of the magazine titled “Editorial Supplement.”

Comments of Physicians

“UPON learning the state of the President’s condition early Friday morning a letter was immediately prepared and sent to the senior surgeon in charge, Dr. McBurney. My letter related to the extreme urgency of consulting a well-known Buffalo physician competent to select precisely proper food, and with knowledge how to administer it. The letter was too late to be of service to the President.
     “A long experience in active practice has taught me that at the beginning of all acute cases, medical or surgical, accompanied with shock or injury to vital organs, as in the case of the President, the safe method is to withhold every form of food, so long as there is fever or other complications. Water, and water alone, is food and drink at such times, and is the only safe thing that may be taken by the patient. Food in any form or of any material may not be digested. Undigested food is the [G][H] principal factor in producing septicæmia. The President was surely in a septic state from the second day, as shown by the low fever and high pulse rate. At such moments of danger even a little food, and especially if it is not digested in the mouth, may lead to fatality. Such is, unfortunately, the termination of the President’s case.”

ELMER LEE, M.D.     

SEPTEMBER 14, 1901.          

     “If our President had been at your Health Home he would have learned that he could get along nicely for weeks without food. In this great strain upon his vitality he would have refused food, no matter by whom ordered, and would have dismissed any one who knew no better than to order whiskey for an inflamed stomach, and the chances are he would have made a speedy recovery.”


     “The wisdom of the unsuccessful operation on the late President might be questioned, as it increased the wound inflicted, and, causing a further loss of blood, decreased his vital energy and chance of recovery. Notwithstanding his age, the deceased would probably have overcome this second onslaught, had he been left entirely without food and drugs till the wound healed.
     “In typhoid fever, patients can live without food for weeks and months; and Dr. Tanner and others have demonstrated that we can exist without nourishment for a considerable time. This shows that the President, being rather corpulent, would have subsisted on his own adipose tissue for several weeks. But how was he fed? On beef juice, whiskey, strychnine and other drugs.
     “From every text-book on physiology it can be learned that beef juice contains but 1 per cent. of nourishing life-sustaining albumen and 99 per cent. of excrementitious matter. As a noted physician puts it:—‘If he could think of anything very nearly approximating beef juice, it would be concentrated urine.’ The beef juice alone was sufficient to cause and explain the rapid decline.
     “If you dip a piece of red flesh into alcohol, it turns gray and hard, the same as if it had been cooked; this is because both the alcohol and the cooking process coagulate the transparent albumen of the flesh. But the same as boiling kills the life of an egg, so coagulation of flesh by alcohol deprives it of its life. Hence, feeding the President with whiskey further accounts for his sudden demise.
     “And now as to the saline injections, strychnine and digitalis. Do they nourish? Are they capable of forming normal tissue? By no means. Suppose you have an old horse that is pulling a load up a hill. Would it be wiser, when the horse shows symptoms of exhaustion, to drive him on until he breaks down, or to allow him to rest and thus gain the summit by easy stages? The administration of those poisons corresponds to the whipping up of the horse; it stimulated the heart till it could go no further.
     “In my opinion, Mr. McKinley died a victim of the routine physicians’ delusion as to the excellent qualities of the poisons mentioned. If they had understood their business, the President would be alive to-day and Czolgosz would not be a murderer.”