Friday, November 11, 2005

Medical Cannibalism in Penobscot County

Since my first post was so well received, here's another. The following was published in the Bangor Register in 1828 under the headline "Ignorance."
Three of a consumptive family, residing in a town adjacent to this, had been cut off by this dreadful malady, within a very short period of time. During the winter of 1827, whether by some whimsical dream, by some preternatural revelation, or whether it was one of the odd fancies of some quackish old woman, I know not; but the notion came into their heads, that the heart of one who had died of consumption, was a "sure cure" for the disease. Accordingly the last deceased, who had slept in her grave for about one year, was actually disinterred, the heart extracted, and a tincture made for the cure of another sister.

A woman, about 60 years of age, walked some miles, to a physician of this town, expressing deep concern for a friend of hers, who, she said, was "just gone with consumption," and entreating the doctor to go and assist to procure the heart of another person, who had died of the complaint, for the relief of her poor friend. But the hard hearted doctor treated the matter lightly, and said "he did not believe in this resurrection business;" which caused the good old lady to go away with a heavy heart, much grieved.
The therapeutic use of human tissue has been dubbed "medical cannibalism" by anthropologists, and was the subject of a lecture given at Vanderbilt University last year. The events described above occurred at a time when the practice had fallen out of favor in the scientific community—which (along with the stigma associated with grave-robbing) explains the doctor's refusal to assist.

1 comment:

Calzone said...

We need Ghost stories for Portland for our soon to make us millionare's ghost tour.

Please do my work for me.