[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
April 7, 1969

La Traviata

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.

JAMA. 1969;208(1):93-96. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160010089008

The physician who attends the opera La Traviata is likely to be disturbed by the practice of medicine shown in the last act. The heroine, Violette Valery, is dying of tuberculosis. In the first place, notes the physician in the audience, she is far too buxom and stout to have terminal pulmonary disease. Dr. Grenvil arrives carrying flowers and proceeds to sit familiarly on her bed. After these lapses in professional behavior, he fails to feel her pulse, or listen to her lungs or even to take her temperature. He assists her in getting out of bed (admittedly it is difficult to hit high C recumbent beneath a feather bolster, but this is no way to treat serious pulmonary tuberculosis).

Finally he kisses Violetta on the forehead (questionable ethics and very bad hygiene), then he announces to the maid Annina—in a fine bass which easily reaches the back rows of