About ten o'clk he made several attempts to speak to me before he could effect it, at length he said, -- "I am just going. Have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead." I bowed assent, for I could not speak. He then looked at me again and said, "Do you understand me? I replied "Yes." "Tis well" said he.
About ten minutes before he expired (which was between ten & eleven o 'clk) his breathing became easier; he lay quietly; -- he withdrew his hand from mine, and felt his own pulse. I saw his countenance change. I spoke to Dr. Craik who sat by the fire; -- he came to the bed side. The General's hand fell from his wrist -- I took it in mine and put it into my bosom. Dr. Craik put his hands over his eyes and he expired without a struggle or a sigh!
- Tobias Lear, Washington's Private Secretary
George Washington was in astonishingly good health in 1799. 67 years old was very old in those days, but the former President was very active and was energetic enough to help push a carriage out of a snowbank a couple days before his death. But he came down with what doctors today think might be acute bacterial epiglottitis; unfortunately for the President, doctors were summoned:
The bleedings inflicted by Washington's doctors hastened his end. Some 80 ounces of blood were removed in 12 hours (this is .63 gallons, or about 35% of all the blood in his body).
A British physician of the era, John Reid, estimated that up to 90 ounces had been removed, and sarcastically remarked that the "current of blood" drained from Washington reflected the mighty currents of American rivers! Reid also criticized the heavy dosing of calomel plus the administration of emetics, vinegar vapors, and blistering to a man in his late 60s.
The "cure" is what did in the patient. They didn't understand the consequences of their actions. Well, some of them did:
One of the three doctors atteding Washington, Elisha Cullen Dick, objected to continued bleeding, arguing instead for tracheotomy. Tracheotomy is a surgical procedure recognized today as potentially life-saving in epiglottitis, but was then almost unworkable. Dick was overruled by the senior physician, James Craik. "Undoubtedly, the specter of failure with a grisly, painful (in the absence of anesthesia), and untried surgical experiment on the former president weighed heavily in Craik's decision to veto this radical suggestion".
The optics were bad, so they bled him some more.
It's sure good that we'd never do anything as boneheaded as that ... /SARC
There are three very interesting Coronavirus narratives emerging in just the last day or two:
- The virus looks to be less bad - and perhaps much less bad - than we had feared. As we learn more, we learn that the worst case scenario that had been put forward is much less likely.
- Government actions have been a factor in making the outbreak or response worse or of using the outbreak to cover up their failures.
- The government response is strangling the economy. By their own admission (i.e. bills being discussed in Congress), there is at least a Trillion dollars of damage so far.
So look at this situation: things are not as bad as we feared, governments are to some extent demonstrably incompetent and untrustworthy, and the draconian crackdown/overreaction is destroying businesses, jobs, and people's lives.
My prediction is that we're going see more of this narrative over the coming week. And that will be a good thing, hopefully making idiot grandstanding politicians think twice before bleeding the patient yet once more.