Ethical Medical Practices of the Past?


Dr. L.M. Sims and nurses Mrs. Callahan and Mrs. McCormick in a hospital ward with victims of the infantile paralysis epidemic of 1916 in Beacon, NY.

Medical Practice is just that - medical "practice." Physicians attend college to learn new techniques and procedures, but when its all said and done, they are still just practicing medicine. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they fail, but with new technology coming out all the time, there is hope for the future.

Since the 20th century, throughout industrialized countries, polio has been feared because of the massive number of cases of children being paralyzed as a result. For this reason, vaccines were introduced in the 1950s and 1960s which helped bring polio under control in these countries, and for the most part, reduced its occurrence to almost zero. 

But, in other developing countries, it was not as recognized as being a problem even though in the 1970s, according to lameness surveys, it was widespread. After these survey results came out, routine immunizations became worldwide. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1988, which is an attempt to totally wipe out polio in order to have a polio-free world. Back in 1916, there was an epidemic that started in New York City. It was so devastating that the fatality rate was extremely high with only four hospitals treating 9,000 cases, and back then, laboratory knowledge was undeveloped. By the time children got to the hospital, the virus had already spread to their motor neurons, which meant the damage had already started. Now the global occurrence of polio cases is down by 99%.