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December 2, 1899

"WASHINGTON'S DEATH AND THE DOCTORS."

JAMA. 1899;XXXIII(23):1430. doi:10.1001/jama.1899.02450750050008

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Abstract

In the December issue of Lippincott's Magazine, Dr. S. Solis-Cohen reviews the treatment of Washington's last illness, concerning which a condemnatory opinion has been so freely expressed and adopted. He shows clearly that the probable cause of his death was an acute edematous laryngitis, a condition that was not generally or even imperfectly recognized until some years later, and the diagnosis of his physicians—"cynanche trachealis"—was therefore fully abreast of the medical science of the time. The essential fact that the trouble was from obstruction near the highest point of the air-passages was recognized, but the laryngoscope, that could have revealed the condition, was an invention of nearly sixty years later, while tracheotomy was then an operation rarely resorted to and, under the circumstances, perilous. Had it been tried and failed, as very easily might have happened, the charge of malpractice would have been freely made from the first, and not

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