Monday Series: An Inquest into a Surgical Procedure II

Charles Spradbrow also witnessed Joseph Hall in perfectly good health on Saturday June 22, having had seen him at Turnbull’s ten or twelve times on occasion to be treated for deafness, and was “always very anxious to use the instrument.” Several other individuals—as many as thirty, according to some reports—were also at Turnbull’s that Saturday, awaiting their turn to be treated for deafness. As Spradbrow testified, sometime around 10 o’clock, Hall filled up the air pump as full as possible, having become familiar with the set-up process from his previous visits. He also assisted Hall and Mr. Lyon, Turnbull’s surgical assistant, in setting up the instruments for catheterization, including connecting catheter to the pump. Spradbrow emphasized that both he and Hall were following the Lyon’s directions. Once the instruments were setup accordingly, Hall seated himself and Lyon inserted the catheter into Hall’s nostril and began to proceed with the process:

Continue reading Monday Series: An Inquest into a Surgical Procedure II


Monday Series: An Inquest into a Surgical Procedure I

Ah, yes, Dear Reader…I have a treat for you for this Monday’s Series! This is something I’ve been researching for the past three years and part of the paper I presented at the Meeting of the Three Societies last summer.

I wrote earlier about the inquest into Alexander Turnbull’s practice following the death of his patient, 68-year-old William Whitbread after a procedure involving Eustachian tube catheterization. While the Whitbread inquest ceased to attract significant public attention to draw attention to Turnbull’s status as a practitioner, or on safety of Eustachian tube catheterization, the death of eighteen-year hold Joseph Hall was another story. The case raised considerable more attention amongst the public and medical practitioners, than that of Whitbread’s; daily newspapers reported the case with immense details from the proceedings and depositions and the case’s medical attributes were even discussed in The Lancet. Hall’s death on Saturday June 22 was strikingly similar that that of Whitbread’s only a few days earlier: he had been plagued with a constant irritation in his ear and headed to Turnbull for continuous treatments, and died following the application of catheterization. What made this case different than the first to merit such public and professional interest?

Continue reading Monday Series: An Inquest into a Surgical Procedure I

French Perspectives on Eustachian Tube Catheterization

Earlier I wrote about Sir Astley Cooper and his procedure of tympanic membrane perforation as a remedy for deafness. While in Britain there wasn’t tremendous grounds being made in aural surgery, the situation was quite different in France, as surgeons made more advancements in Eustachian tube catheterization as a remedy than their British counterparts.  By the early nineteenth century, the Institut Nationale des Sourds-Muets á Paris emerged as the frontrunner for newer and more experimental surgical methods for treating deafness.

The Institute’s surgeon, Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard (1774-1838) employed an image of deafness based on physiological defect—not of philosophical inquiry into language, as it was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Within this image, Itard searched for a cure that he hoped would “objectify the disease,” turning to postmortem examinations to draw conclusions about the root cause(s) of deafness. His research suggested that in several instances, congenital deafness arose from material causes that could be surgically removed; as thus, Itard applied his surgical skills towards the Eustachian tube, as a way for surgically treating deafness. Continue reading French Perspectives on Eustachian Tube Catheterization