Forums

Welcome Guest 

Show/Hide Header

Welcome Guest, posting in this forum requires registration.





Pages: [1] 2 3 4 5 6
Author Topic: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
Brad-
Nelson
Administrator
Posts: 1710
Permalink
Brad Nelson
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 7, 2019, 10:07
Quote

While browsing through the electronic non-fiction section of my local library using the Libby app on my iPad (also available for Android), I ran into this one by David M. Oshinsky: Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital.

I’m 17% into it and so far, so good. I expect, like the otherwise good The Ghost Map, I won’t be able to stay with this one. The Ghost Map got bogged down in detail and mind-numbing minutia. But it’s another book for which I would say “Read the first half.” It’s a very good real-life detective story and covers an interesting (if gruesome) bit of history.

I suspect it will be the same for Bellevue. Ironically, here on the upper Left Coast, that name is most associated with one of the richer communities east of Seattle. For most, however, it’s always the place in movies where they take the crazy people, including Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street.

So, what have I learned? What keeps it interesting despite the story being an inherently grim one? Well, it contains some interesting history of New York. And although the waves of immigration to America becomes but a well-learned statistic, this book brings it to life. It was a veritable plague upon the City of New York.

But one must imagine that for people to suffer what they did, things must have been worse at home. Sometimes the worse thing for them was hospital care. People who avoided hospitals in this period (prior to the early 20th century) were better off. They were places to catch things worse than what one went in with. And medical “care” was still an unscientific mess. Anyone who believes in “global warming” and a number of other pseudo-sciences should read this book. It’s a prime example of how awesomely stupid the “scientific community” can be. They are as prone to anyone to groupthink — even more so.

Without even a scrap of evidence, they were still bleeding people as a curative. “Miasma” was still the reigning theory of sickness. If you can believe this (and if you are here, you can), one enterprising doctor of a ward in an early incarnation of Bellevue said basically, “If bad air is the cause, then why the hell not open the windows and clean the rooms?” He did, even going so far as taking the doors off their hinges. Patients were cleaned and alcohol (really) was used instead of bleeding. This doctor intuited that bleeding only make patients weaker.

And apparently he had a great success rate. It is said (who knows if it is true) that he was able to cure all typhoid cases and never caught it himself. But he was a rarity. His common sense is notable by its widespread absence.

Bellevue itself was a conglomeration of things. First it was just a small clinic. Then it became bigger and was the de facto dumping ground for the incurable and the insane….none of whom could pay. Later, when a large facility was built on Blackwell’s Island (Roosevelt Island), Bellevue found some relief. But any relief periods would be busted by either another wave of immigration or another wave of pestilence — the one going hand-in-hand with the other, of course.

There were one or two other private hospitals that did develop. And they were important. Bellevue was supported by government funds. What certainly helped to make these hospitals (public or private) viable in this period was that doctors (aside from some on-site permanent staff) worked for free (at least they did at Bellevue). It was their opportunity to practice medicine (aka “experiment on the patients” — things were a bit more lax back then) as well as get actual fees from the students they could bring along with them to tudor.

It was a win-win situation, except for the fact that the doctors knew next to nothing about how to cure people of anything but a broken arm. Many, perhaps most, of the private hospitals that began to pop up (Jews’ Hospital — now Mt. Sinai — St. Luke’s or St. Vincent) specialized in their own people but also filtered in regards to the deserving poor as opposed to the undeserving poor (prostitutes, alcoholics, those who refused to work, etc.) Bellevue was the alternative for the undeserving poor. It was commonly a place where many went to die.

These other early hospitals did not intend to function as hospices and did not accept patients who had not chance to recover. With most, you had to be referred to them by a credible source. When plagues hit, they relaxed their standards. But that generally was their orientation.

Where am at in the book at the moment is that a law was just passed in New York City that allowed bodies unclaimed after 24 hours to be used in medical schools for teaching. This was hoped to put an end to the common practice (even by the most respectable of doctors) of grave robbing. It did so. One of the argument so the time in favor of the law is that those who sponged off of society ought to, at least in their death, give something back.

Death was so common, it’s hard to imagine living in that time. Many did not. When an outbreak of yellow fever or typhus occurred, it was a veritable Exodus by the well-off as they exited the city en masse to wait it out in the countryside. I’ll give the book some more time and see where it goes.

Timothy-
Lane
Moderator
Posts: 1574
Permalink
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 7, 2019, 10:34
Quote

I think we've discussed The Ghost Map here before, or at least the basic subject (the 1854 London cholera outbreak being traced to a single contaminated public water tap).

It's interesting that reasonable care on the basis of the miasma theory also proved to be superior care in reality. But after all, that dirty air carried bacteria that spread diseases. Dr. Semmelweiss, please call your office. His theory was wrong, too, but his similar treatment worked for similar reasons.

I don't know when Bellevue got the reputation as mainly a booby hatch. But in 1972, after Psycho Tom Eagleton was forced off the ticket, there was a joke that if George McGrovel won, he'd go to Bellevue to pick his cabinet. But even worse was Mattewean, the prison for the criminally insane (George Metesky, the Mad Bomber, spent many years there). It's closed now, as is Sing Sing (located in what is now called Ossining, in Westchester County -- hence being sent "up the river").

Brad-
Nelson
Administrator
Posts: 1710
Permalink
Brad Nelson
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 7, 2019, 14:14
Quote

But after all, that dirty air carried bacteria that spread diseases.

One of the astonishing things that seems very consistent until recently is just how comfortable people were with being dirty. It seems absolute common sense to not walk, sleep, and eat in your own filth. But this has historically been a foreign notion to most, as I understand it.

It does give new perspective on many of the Jewish laws in the Old Testament. It must have been difficult for God, or anyone, to work it into the brains of people that cleanliness is next to Godliness.

I have no idea about the modern Bellevue. But even in the old days, it did have several buildings or sections for various purposes, including one for the mentally ill. But Bellevue certainly did come to be associated with a lunatic asylum, probably in large part due to the movies.

There’s certainly been much stigma attached to mental illness. I say, it is what it is. If someone has a problem, they should feel free to seek help. It’s much better to get better than stew in it (although it does makes for good politics for the Left). But in all honesty, who could be down on Eagleton when you have Trump or Pelosi as such shining examples of supposed mental health?

I’ve never known real mental illness. At least I don’t think so. But I’ve been to enough clinics (had a mental health provider as a client) to see firsthand what real mental illness is. It does bring to mind that these are “children of a lesser god.” It is a subhuman experience of life for many. You wonder how any God can allow that to happen.

But it does. And modern drugs to some extent have helped in certain cases. I just think it’s useful to know that 90% of pop culture today is the opposite of mental health. Literally. The Daily Drama is not conducive to it.

Brad-
Nelson
Administrator
Posts: 1710
Permalink
Brad Nelson
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 10, 2019, 14:33
Quote

We’re on to a few tails of Tammany Hall as is relates to the medical profession, as well as the Civil War. This book is full of what feels like a fair-and-balanced history. The rich were bastards who didn’t care about anyone but themselves and the rabble were often such a rabble that this made it easy for them.

After the draft riots in New York, John Jacob Astor and couple other rich fellows formed a commission to look into the problems of the rabble. They senses that if they didn’t, the draft riots were just the first act.

I am your all-wise, all-loving, all-tolerant <i>Editor</i>. I have not built-in prejudices other than Islam should be wiped from the earth. That is, I have no built-in hatred of Jews, blacks, or even the Irish. But, goodness sakes, from reading this books it would appear that the Irish did everything they could to make themselves unlikable. It is apparently no false stereotype that they drank a lot.

The Jews came over and, as poor as many were, they had some cultural values that didn’t lend to them just becoming a vulgar mass with no self-respect who were a drain on society. I’m not sure you could say that of the Irish immigrants back then.

Timothy-
Lane
Moderator
Posts: 1574
Permalink
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 10, 2019, 15:32
Quote

The Irish culture owed a lot to British mistreatment of them. This goes back a long way, and led to (among other things) Jonathan Swift's bitterly sarcastic A Modest Proposal as a proposed solution. Thomas Sowell pointed out (I think it may have been in Ethnic America that Southern slave-holders would hire Irishmen to do dangerous work because they were disposable, whereas slaves were valuable property.

Pat Cleburne, the best Irish-American general in the War of the Rebellion (and he would probably have been the highest ranked if he hadn't proposed freeing the slaves to go into the Army, after which he never received another promotion), once pointed out high foolish a subordinate was in assigning Irish troops to guard a liquor supply. He also once conversed with an Irish Yankee who was thinking about raising Fenians to liberate Ireland. He figured that most of them would have had enough fighting by the end of the war.

Brad-
Nelson
Administrator
Posts: 1710
Permalink
Brad Nelson
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 11, 2019, 08:58
Quote

The Irish culture owed a lot to British mistreatment of them.

A lot of people have been mistreated in the world. But that hasn’t turned most into drunkards.

It’s interesting to read about the downfall of Tammany Hall. The Orange Riot of 1871 (a Protestant parade of Orangemen being attacked by Irish Catholics) left sixty people dead. The author writes:“The bloodiest confrontation in the city’s history, exceeding the worst single day of the Draft Riots of 1853.” No doubt there was fault on both sides. But the author writes:

Angry Catholics showered the marchers with rocks, bottles, crockery, animal waste, and occasional gunfire.

In the opinion of the author, what ultimately brought down Tammany Hall wasn’t newspaper exposés of corruption. (The newspaper men knew about the corruption all along.) It was that Tammany had broken the explicit contract that allowed many to turn the other way: To control the Irish Catholics.

There’s no doubt the British were bastards. But the British were a good thousand miles or more away from these Irish Catholics. It would be interesting to consider what part Catholicism played in apparently turning them into good Catholics but not good human beings.

John Jacob Astor and others in the cream of New York society formed a Citizens’ Association to address the reality of 10,000 dying annually of diseases in the city. After the Draft Riots, they wanted to find out “What, exactly, had caused such dramatic collapse of the social order that July, and what could be done to prevent another.”

So this Citizens’ Association commissioned a vast and detailed study of the slums and particulars of New York City. Their final report was called Sanitary Conditions of the City and ran to 367 pages with 17 volumes of accompanying data. One Eighth Ward inspector included in his report:

”The instances are many in which one or more families…of all ages and both sexes, are congregated in [a] single…apartment. Here they eat, drink, sleep, work, dress and undress without the possibility of…privacy. What is the consequence? The sense of shame—the greatest, surest safeguard of virtue, except the grace of God—is gradually blunted, ruined, and finally destroyed.”

I can hear from this distance Mr. Kung’s head nodding in agreement. In wonder, in regards to the Catholics, what state it leaves a person (in regards to shame) if you can just confess your sins every so often and be absolved. It may be great for fostering dependency. But does it help create a better person? Were the British really the bad guys (or the only bad guys) in regards to the Irish?

You can’t blame some motherless woman with dependent children if she’s living in a slum with feces in the basement and wall-to-wall rats. But I think back to my own father. He would have never submitted himself to the degradations of living worse than an animal. At some point, this is more than about economics or what the British did.

Timothy-
Lane
Moderator
Posts: 1574
Permalink
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 11, 2019, 09:45
Quote

There were also the Fenian Raids on Canada after the War of the Rebellion. And of course support for Irish causes long predates the IRA, a point that plays a major role in Peter Lovesey's Sergeant Cribb novel Invitation to a Dynamite Party. The first American modern submarine, the Holland, was actually built to assist the Fenians.

Your description makes me wonder if the Old Brewery, a notorious crime haven, was inhabited by the Irish. They eventually tore it down, but the neighborhood became the Five Points, another crime haven. (Johnny Torrio and Al Capone got their starts with the Five Points Gang.) One noted crime in the Old Brewery came when a young girl naively revealed that she had a penny. It cost her everything. This may have been in Murder Alley.

Brad-
Nelson
Administrator
Posts: 1710
Permalink
Brad Nelson
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 11, 2019, 11:34
Quote

Your description makes me wonder if the Old Brewery, a notorious crime haven, was inhabited by the Irish.

Brewery? Irish? Odds are it was. A more sensible person, such as Mr. Kung, might instead suppose the hard-working Germans brewed the beer that the rather primitive Irish of the time imbibed.

And regarding the state of the City of New York, all I can say is that the words of Kenneth Mars in Young Frankenstein were apt in those days:

A riot is an ugly thing. Und I think that it is just about time that we had one.

A very large number of people in New York City were living in conditions so squalid that one of the writers of the above-mentioned report said it was beyond description. It turned out that the riots (however ugly and indiscriminate they were) were expressing a real problem.

And yet these problems had always been somehow very easy to ignore. The “rich” lived in their homes (must as Left Coasters do in California) insulated and isolated from the dirty reality.

Tens of thousands were dying, but it barely registered with most. Truly, human life (as we see regarding abortion) has often been something people see as cheap and disposable.

One of the drivers of the hospitals and the medical profession is, ironically, war. The Civil War prompted advances in medicine that otherwise might not have occurred. The last chapter I read focused on a guy named Dalton who instituted the idea of purpose-specific ambulance corps. Part of the impetus for this were the injured soldiers who lied in the fields for days at Bull Run for lack of transport.

Do we see a John Jacob Astor of today asserting himself in regards to real problems? No. Instead we get hand-wringing from limousine liberals whose “solutions” do nothing but foist the problems on someone else. Pseudo-intellectuals such as Bill Gates proscribe more of the very kinds of things that, in the case of education, are the problem in the first place. Kudos for Astor at least developing what today is such an over-used word: a “social conscience.”

Five Points is mentioned often in this book.

Kung Fu Zu
Moderator
Posts: 801
Permalink
Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 11, 2019, 11:35
Quote

The sense of shame—the greatest, surest safeguard of virtue, except the grace of God—is gradually blunted, ruined, and finally destroyed.”

I believe I have previously said that Confucian culture is based on shame as a control of human vices. The sense of shame is a very powerful motivator. A common way for Chinese mothers to spur their children to academic achievement is to say something like, "Others will laugh at you if you do poorly in class."

Of course, connected to shame is failure. Failure is not praised in Asia.

Here they eat, drink, sleep, work, dress and undress without the possibility of…privacy.

The Japanese have lived in a similar state for centuries, but uniquely, they seem to have developed the ability to wall themselves off mentally from much which goes on around them. Perhaps this is why the Japanese culture became so formalized and dependent on strict rules in language and social intercourse. Otherwise, the society would collapse.

Historically, the Irish have not been known for their probity. The stereotype of the drunken Irishman has arisen for a reason. The country was known across Europe for being primitive. I believe it was Robert Graves, a romantic Irishman raised in England, who described how he looked forward to walking around Ireland and viewing its primitive inhabitants. As I recall he mentions seeing people walking around in a naked filthy state. This was a little over a century back.

Some believe Irish immigrants were instrumental in the corruption of American politics by developing political machine type of politics in Boston and New York. I would have to look more closely into this claim to offer an opinion.

Brad-
Nelson
Administrator
Posts: 1710
Permalink
Brad Nelson
Post Re: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem
on: January 11, 2019, 11:48
Quote

The Japanese have lived in a similar state for centuries, but uniquely, they seem to have developed the ability to wall themselves off mentally from much which goes on around them.

Mr. Kung, I would take that description from the one chronicler as an expression of exasperation. The real problem probably wasn’t how many people there were per square inch, per se. I was that they were living in such squalid conditions.

I don’t wish to idealize the Japanese. I’m sure they have their poor. But I would imagine that if six Japanese lived in a one-room 18’ x 18’ room, the room would be spotless and orderly. The kids would be neat, well-fed, and no one would be allowed to just hang about doing nothing, drunk on their ass.

The Jews, Protestants, Germans, and the Japanese had “the Protestant work ethic” in common even if it didn’t go by that name.

The country was known across Europe for being primitive.

The description in this book is of the Irish not being just poor but primitive. That completely jibes with what you’re saying.

Pages: [1] 2 3 4 5 6
Mingle Forum by cartpauj
Version: 1.0.34 ; Page loaded in: 0.274 seconds.