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Actual Practice

GUL, Sp Coll, Northern Looking Glass

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Actual Practice

Coloured cartoon from the Northern Looking Glass 17 September 1825, the eighth in the series "Essay on Modern Medical Education". It is entitled "Actual Experience" and shows a trainee surgeon (who bears a strong resemblance to the man shown in the previous cartoon practising his operating skills on a cat) amputating the lower leg of a patient with an axe. The amputation appears to to be taking place beneath the dome in the operating theatre at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Professors look on aghast and appear to be pleading with the surgeon to stop, as the un-anaesthetised patient suffers and his blood pours onto the floor.

Anaesthetics were not available in the operating theatres of Scottish hospitals prior to the introduction of ether in the 1840s. It was only in the late 1850s that Sir James Young Simpson discovered the more satisfactory properties of chloroform for the purpose. The unfortunate patient shown here is strapped to the operating table and held down by an assistant.

The trauma of amputation without anaesthetic was often enough in itself to hasten the death of a patient, and the cartoonist has drawn some coffins propped against the wall nearby, ready for use.

Reference: Sp Coll Bh14-x.8

Glasgow University Library, Special Collections

amputations, anaesthetics, axes, coffins, domes, Glasgow Looking Glass, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, lithographs, medical students, Northern Looking Glass, operating tables, operating theatres, professors, surgeons, surgery

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