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For the last three decades of the nineteenth century and

time:2023-12-03 01:44:51 source:Track and trace network author:government read:317次

The Chinese custom of foot-binding is a curious instance of self-mutilation. In a paper quoted in the Philadelphia Medical Times, January 31, 1880, a most minute account of the modus operandi, the duration, and the suffering attendant on this process are given. Strapping of the foot by means of tight bandages requires a period of two or three years' continuance before the desired effect is produced. There is a varying degree of pain, which is most severe during the first year and gradually diminishes after the binding of all the joints is completed. During the binding the girl at night lies across the bed, putting her legs on the edge of the bed-stead in such a manner as to make pressure under the knees, thus benumbing the parts below and avoiding the major degree of pain. In this position, swinging their legs backward and forward, the poor Chinese girls pass many a weary night. During this period the feet are unbound once a month only. The operation is begun by placing the end of a long, narrow bandage on the inside of the instep and carrying it over the four smaller toes, securing them under the foot. After several turns the bandage is reversed so as to compress the foot longitudinally. The young girl is then left for a month, and when the bandage is removed the foot is often found gangrenous and ulcerated, one or two toes not infrequently being lost. If the foot is thus bound for two years it becomes virtually dead and painless. By this time the calf disappears from lack of exercise, the bones are attenuated, and all the parts are dry and shrivelled. In after-life the leg frequently regains its muscles and adipose tissue, but the foot always remains small. The binding process is said to exert a markedly depressing influence upon the emotional character of the subject, which lasts through life, and is very characteristic.

For the last three decades of the nineteenth century and

To show how minute some of the feet of the Chinese women are, Figure I of the accompanying plate, taken from a paper by Kenthughes on the "Feet of Chinese Ladies" is from a photograph of a shoe that measured only 3 1/4 inches anteroposteriorly. The foot which it was intended to fill must have been smaller still, for the bandage would take up a certain amount of space. Figure II is a reproduction of a photograph of a foot measuring 5 1/2 inches anteroposteriorly, the wrinkled appearance of the skin being due to prolonged immersion in spirit. This photograph shows well the characteristics of the Chinese foot--the prominent and vertically placed heel, which is raised generally about an inch from the level of the great toe; the sharp artificial cavus, produced by the altered position of the os calcis, and the downward deflection of the foot in front of the mediotarsal joint; the straight and downward pointing great toe, and the infolding of the smaller toes underneath the great toe. In Figure III we have a photograph of the skeleton of a Chinese lady's foot about five inches in anteroposterior diameter. The mesial axis of the os calcis is almost directly vertical, with a slight forward inclination, forming a right angle with the bones in front of the mediotarsal joint. The upper three-quarters of the anterior articular surface of the calcis is not in contact with the cuboid, the latter being depressed obliquely forward and downward, the lower portion of the posterior facet on the cuboid articulating with a new surface on the under portion of the bone. The general shape of the bone closely resembles that of a normal one--a marked contrast to its wasted condition and tapering extremity in paralytic calcaneus. Extension and flexion at the ankle are only limited by the shortness of the ligaments; there is no opposition from the conformation of the bones. The astragalus is almost of normal shape; the trochlea is slightly prolonged anteriorly, especially on the inner side, from contact with the tibial articular surface. The cartilage on the exposed posterior portion of the trochlea seems healthy. The head of the astragalus is very prominent on the outer side, the scaphoid being depressed downward and inward away from it. The anterior articular surface is prolonged in the direction of the displaced scaphoid. The scaphoid, in addition to its displacement, is much compressed on the planter surface, being little more than one-half the width of the dorsal surface. The cuboid is displaced obliquely downward and forward, so that the upper part of the posterior articular surface is not in contact with the calcis.

For the last three decades of the nineteenth century and

A professional leg-breaker is described in the Weekly Medical Review of St. Louis, April, 1890. This person's name was E. L. Landers, and he was accredited with earning his living by breaking or pretending to break his leg in order to collect damages for the supposed injury. Moreover, this individual had but one leg, and was compelled to use crutches. At the time of report he had succeeded in obtaining damages in Wichita, Kansas, for a supposed fracture. The Review quotes a newspaper account of this operation as follows.--

For the last three decades of the nineteenth century and

"According to the Wichita Dispatch he represented himself as a telegraph operator who was to have charge of the postal telegraph office in that city as soon as the line reached there. He remained about town for a month until he found an inviting piece of defective sidewalk, suitable for his purpose, when he stuck his crutch through the hole and fell screaming to the ground, declaring that he had broken his leg. He was carried to a hospital, and after a week's time, during which he negotiated a compromise with the city authorities and collected $1000 damages, a confederate, claiming to be his nephew, appeared and took the wounded man away on a stretcher, saying that he was going to St. Louis. Before the train was fairly out of Wichita, Landers was laughing and boasting over his successful scheme to beat the town. The Wichita story is in exact accord with the artistic methods of a one-legged sharper who about 1878 stuck his crutch through a coal-hole here, and, falling heels over head, claimed to have sustained injuries for which he succeeded in collecting something like $1500 from the city. He is described as a fine- looking fellow, well dressed, and wearing a silk hat. He lost one leg in a railroad accident, and having collected a good round sum in damages for it, adopted the profession of leg-breaking in order to earn a livelihood. He probably argued that as he had made more money in that line than in any other he was especially fitted by natural talents to achieve distinction in this direction. But as it would be rather awkward to lose his remaining leg altogether he modified the idea and contents himself with collecting the smaller amounts which ordinary fractures of the hip-joint entitle such an expert 'fine worker' to receive.

"He first appeared here in 1874 and succeeded, it is alleged, in beating the Life Association of America. After remaining for some time in the hospital he was removed on a stretcher to an Illinois village, from which point the negotiations for damages were conducted by correspondence, until finally a point of agreement was reached and an agent of the company was sent to pay him the money. This being accomplished the agent returned to the depot to take the train back to St. Louis when he was surprised to see the supposed sufferer stumping around on his crutches on the depot platform, laughing and jesting over the ease with which he had beaten the corporation.

"He afterward fell off a Wabash train at Edwardsville and claimed to have sustained serious injuries, but in this case the company's attorneys beat him and proved him to be an impostor. In 1879 he stumbled into the telegraph office at the Union Depot here, when Henry C. Mahoney, the superintendent, catching sight of him, put him out, with the curt remark that he didn't want him to stick that crutch into a cuspidor and fall down, as it was too expensive a performance for the company to stand. He beat the Missouri Pacific and several other railroads and municipalities at different times, it is claimed, and manages to get enough at each successful venture to carry him along for a year or eighteen months, by which time the memory of his trick fades out of the public mind, when he again bobs up serenely."

Anomalous Suicides.--The literature on suicide affords many instances of self-mutilations and ingenious modes of producing death. In the Dublin Medical Press for 1854 there is an extraordinary case of suicide, in which the patient thrust a red-hot poker into his abdomen and subsequently pulled it out, detaching portions of the omentum and 32 inches of the colon. Another suicide in Great Britain swallowed a red-hot poker. In commenting on suicides, in 1835, Arntzenius speaks of an ambitious Frenchman who was desirous of leaving the world in a distinguished manner, and who attached himself to a rocket of enormous size which he had built for the purpose, and setting fire to it, ended his life. On September 28, 1895, according to the Gaulois and the New York Herald (Paris edition) of that date, there was admitted to the Hopital St. Louis a clerk, aged twenty-five, whom family troubles had rendered desperate and who had determined to seek death as a relief from his misery. Reviewing the various methods of committing suicide he found none to his taste, and resolved on something new. Being familiar with the constituents of explosives, he resolved to convert his body into a bomb, load it with explosives, and thus blow himself to pieces. He procured some powdered sulphur and potassium chlorate, and placing each in a separate wafer he swallowed both with the aid of water. He then lay down on his bed, dressed in his best clothes, expecting that as soon as the two explosive materials came into contact he would burst like a bomb and his troubles would be over. Instead of the anticipated result the most violent collicky pains ensued, which finally became so great that he had to summon his neighbors, who took him to the hospital, where, after vigorous application with the stomach-pump, it was hoped that his life would be saved. Sankey mentions an epileptic who was found dead in his bed in the Oxford County Asylum; the man had accomplished his end by placing a round pebble in each nostril, and thoroughly impacting in his throat a strip of flannel done up in a roll. In his "Institutes of Surgery" Sir Charles Bell remarks that his predecessor at the Middlesex Hospital entered into a conversation with his barber over an attempt at suicide in the neighborhood, during which the surgeon called the "would-be suicide" a fool, explaining to the barber how clumsy his attempts had been at the same time giving him an extempore lecture on the anatomic construction of the neck, and showing him how a successful suicide in this region should be performed. At the close of the conversation the unfortunate barber retired into the back area of his shop, and following minutely the surgeon's directions, cut his throat in such a manner that there was no hope of saving him. It is supposed that one could commit suicide by completely gilding or varnishing the body, thus eliminating the excretory functions of the skin. There is an old story of an infant who was gilded to appear at a Papal ceremony who died shortly afterward from the suppression of the skin-function. The fact is one well established among animals, but after a full series of actual experiments, Tecontjeff of St. Petersburg concludes that in this respect man differs from animals. This authority states that in man no tangible risk is entailed by this process, at least for any length of time required for therapeutic purposes. "Tarred and feathered" persons rarely die of the coating of tar they receive. For other instances of peculiar forms of suicide reference may be made to numerous volumes on this subject, prominent among which is that by Brierre de Boismont, which, though somewhat old, has always been found trustworthy, and also to the chapters on this subject written by various authors on medical jurisprudence.

Religious and Ceremonial Mutilations.--Turning now to the subject of self-mutilation and self-destruction from the peculiar customs or religious beliefs of people, we find pages of information at our disposal. It is not only among the savage or uncivilized tribes that such ideas have prevailed, but from the earliest times they have had their influence upon educated minds. In the East, particularly in India, the doctrines of Buddhism, that the soul should be without fear, that it could not be destroyed, and that the flesh was only its resting-place, the soul several times being reincarnated, brought about great indifference to bodily injuries and death. In the history of the Brahmans there was a sect of philosophers called the Gymnosophists, who had the extremest indifference to life. To them incarnation was a positive fact, and death was simply a change of residence. One of these philosophers, Calanus, was burned in the presence of Alexander; and, according to Plutarch, three centuries later another Gymnosophist named Jarmenochegra, was similarly burned before Augustus. Since this time, according to Brierre de Boismont, the suicides from indifference to life in this mystic country are counted by the thousands. Penetrating Japan the same sentiment, according to report, made it common in the earlier history of that country to see ships on its coasts, filled with fanatics who, by voluntary dismantling, submerged the vessels little by little, the whole multitude sinking into the sea while chanting praises to their idols. The same doctrines produced the same result in China. According to Brucker it is well known that among the 500 philosophers of the college of Confucius, there were many who disdained to survive the loss of their books (burned by order of the savage Emperor Chi-Koung-ti), and throwing themselves into the sea, they disappeared under the waves. According to Brierre de Boismont, voluntary mutilation or death was very rare among the Chaldeans, the Persians, or the Hebrews, their precepts being different from those mentioned. The Hebrews in particular had an aversion to self-murder, and during a period in their history of 4000 years there were only eight or ten suicides recorded. Josephus shows what a marked influence on suicides the invasion of the Romans among the Hebrews had.


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