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Historical Hysterics. How Can You Not Just Love Lab Coat Lunacy?

March 1, 2018

 

In the 1800s and well before the arrival of medical anesthetics, the surgical zeitgeist of the era was to heavily dose poor patients with opium or whiskey, then pin them down to the operating table by a couple of strong male assistants. The procedures were as brutal as anything a patient could ever face. So the name of the game was surgical speed.

 

In Great Britain the most famous speed-demon slicer of the times was a Scotsman named Doctor Robert Liston - a lab coated showman whose dramatic surgical forays drew med students and bystanders alike, into the packed viewing rooms at London's University College Hospital, to witness the bloody proceedings firsthand. 

 

Liston repeatedly bragged that he could remove an adult leg in less than 30 seconds. In order to be able to cut tissue even faster than that, he would hold the distal end of his scalpel in his teeth, which meant his face was shockingly close to the flesh he was lacerating. This freaky technique freed his hands to work the bone saw. Around the patient he worked at a feverish pace, striding across the gory floor of the surgical suite in his bloodstained lab coat and tan riding boots, chatting out to the onlookers in his loud, showman's voice:

 

"Pull out your pocket watches gentlemen and time me, please!" And so they did.

 

 Neither a room - nor a man - you'd care to meet

 

Alas, along came the operation that won him first place in surgical history - the day his scalpel sliced so swiftly that the cocky Doctor Liston amputated not only the patient’s leg but also the fingers of his medical assistant.

 

Oh, he was hardly finished.

 

Within another minute he'd also slashed through the trouser-crotch of a very well-known surgical spectator seated nearby, who - according to the London Times later, “was so terrified that the knife had pierced his vitals” - collapsed and died from fright.

 

And so it came to pass that Doctor Liston's assistant and Doctor Liston's patient died within a few days from surgical gangrene - a sadly common malady of operations at that time.

 

So now, in the year 2018, medical professionals and common folk alike can truly appreciate the backroom achievements of this cocky doc. He sports a jaw-dropping distinction in the annals of healthcare that no one else can claim. 

 

For Doctor Robert Liston is the only physician in the history of planet earth, known to have killed three different people during one - yes count it, ONE - operation.

 

It has long been our take that the world of medicine bears a striking resemblance to The Twilight Zone. And giving folks rare peeks into its spooky corridors seems especially prudent to us.

 

We wish you all a terrific - and non-surgical - day.

 

 

 

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