Wednesday, 20 August 2008

History of medicine on TV

BBC Four's new five part series called Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery starts at 9pm tonight. Presented by the medically trained Michael Mosley, each episode covers a different branch of surgery.
I was browsing the volumes about Calcutta Medical Institutions in which doctors were evaluating Joseph Lister's antiseptic methods. The 1880 report has a section by the First Surgeon, K. McLeod in which he writes, "I have come to consider it a sacred and imperative duty to endeavour, to the best of my ability and means, to prevent every breach of surface, whether wound or sore, from becoming the seat of septic change; and if it has already done so, to correct the vice and restore it to sweetness." Click on the image to see more about McLeod's antiseptic methods in Calcutta in the mid 1880's.
McLeod came to Edinburgh in 1876 and on following Lister in his wards, realised that he hadn't been carrying out the procedure in accordance with Lister's teaching. He returned to India determined to demonstrate "strict Listerism." Mortality rates were seen to fall after surgery when using antiseptic methods. It is due to the painstaking work of doctors like McLeod that surgery was made much more effective and less fatal.
No doubt the BBC programme will show others like him, so I am very much looking forward to watching it. There is a BBC book by Richard Hollingham to accompany the series.

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