As a doctor, the ward is full of potential dangers, risks and potential for cock-up. Avoiding pitfalls are a daily event for many junior doctors! But things were a lot worse many years ago. In the January edition of Casebook Sarah Whitehouse trawls through the medicolegal archives for some historical horror stories to see what doctors used to get away with.
1. Using acid to cure a skin infection
Thomas S Fletcher was a surgeon at the Bromsgrove Workhouse, Worcestershire. One of his patients, young Henry Cartwright, died in 1842 after being immersed in potassium sulphate – in an attempt to cure “the itch”, or scabies.
2. Mistaking Tincture of Opium for Rhubarb
Mrs Elizabeth Galloway was suffering from inflammation of the bowels. To aid her recovery, she was given a tincture of rhubarb … Unfortunately, the druggist mixed up the wrong remedy; the cup contained laudanum [Tincture of Opium] rather than rhubarb. Mrs Galloway immediately worsened and the doctor was called… she later died.
3. Choosing the wrong bottle
Mary Ramshaw was knocked down and severely fractured her thigh. Dr Lumley was called, and prescribed both a mixture to take and an embrocation. Mrs Ramshaw’s daughter unfortunately administered the medicine from the wrong bottle and Mrs Ramshaw instantly began to convulse. Ten minutes later, she died. The embrocation she had accidentally been given contained belladonna (deadly nightshade).
You can read about more deadly disasters in the full article here.
The MPS regularly publish case reports as an aid to its members, to alert them to pitfalls that have caught their colleagues unawares.
Have you been privy to any first-term disasters? We would love to hear about them.