The death of George Washington

In mid-December 1799, George Washington, the recently retired first president of the United States, turned slightly ill.

 At 67 years old, Washington suffered a cold and sore throats, which was nothing unusual during a winter season in Virginia, the site of Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

That winter of 1799 had been chilly with snow, hail and rains which made it a perfect weather for colds. And as the master of his sprawling property, Washington had been spending considerable amount of time outside in the chilly wet weather.

Shortly after, he develop shortness of breath, his wife, Martha and his personal secretary, Colonel Tobias Lear, had the physicians summoned. While waiting for their arrival, Washington asked George Rawlins, Mount Vernon’s overseer, to perform a bloodletting procedure. Bloodletting is a procedure (medial?) which entails opening a vein and letting the blood flow freely into a container. Rawlins quickly removed at least 12 ounces of Washington’s blood.

Bloodletting was a common medical procedure in Washington’s time. It was believed to be tracked back to ancient Greeks, who believed “blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile” dominate the body and saw illness as a sign that these elements are out of balance.

Obviously, this as we know it nowadays are utter nonsense.

Washington’s doctors then conducted for more bloodletting.

By the time his doctors finished opening his veins, Washington had lost almost half his body’s blood in a single day. Soon after, not surprisingly he died. Bright and knowledgeable he was, and those whom treated him were qualified medical professionals (of his time).

Therefore, the question arise, how could these intelligent men think that draining a person’s life’s blood would be able to cure one illness.

The moral of the story here is an illustration of an eternal basic human truth. That is, people are routinely subscribe to the craziest ideas. That was true in ancient Greece and colonial America, and it remains true today.


Categories: Personal Development

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