Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Medical progress in the last 200 years

(the Legislature created Mass. General on Feb. 25, 1811, but it didn’t open to patients until a decade later.)

"When Massachusetts General Hospital opened in 1821, most patients were required to apply in writing for admission. They could be turned away for “bad morals’’ — and discharged for spitting, drinking, smoking, or swearing. Patients who followed the rules stayed for two months on average at an all-inclusive daily rate of 43 cents.

"They endured hemorrhoid and cataract surgery and amputations without anesthesia — assistants held them down, and sometimes they got opium and brandy for pain. Patients seeking treatment of broken legs or arms died as often as they went home."

I'm hopeful that equally big gains will be made in the next 200 years, so that much of today's medicine will look primitive in retrospect.

In particular, of interest to readers of this blog who have been following the great advances made in the past half dozen years in kidney exchange, I hope the time will come soon when that will seem a primitive stopgap, replaced by e.g. xenotransplants or even stem cell therapy to help patients grow new kidneys, not to mention cures for diabetes and other causes of kidney failure...

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