Economic Bloodletting II: Revenge of the Quacks
25/10/2013 2 Comments
Britain, 1642. A patient, Mister Edmund Conomy of London, sits up in bed, sipping broth from a bowl. People stand around his bed amazed at his miraculous recovery.
Four long years earlier, Edmund had been struck down with a severe case of anaemia. The new local physician, Doctor Gideon had fortunately arrived early on and prescribed a course of bloodletting to treat his condition. Doctor Gideon had pumped out a few glugs on his first visit, then returned each month and never noting a change in his patient’s condition, continued, each time, to pump out a few glugs more.
Mister E. Conomy’s housekeeper was a lady by the name of Miss Carmen Sents. Miss Sents, had taken issue with Dr Gideon’s prescribed treatment:
“He’s weak enough already.” She told the doctor. “Removing his blood will just weaken him further.”
“Rubbish,” snapped Dr. Gideon, “The cause of this man’s illness is clearly that his previous physician allowed him to produce too many blood cells.”
“Look, if anything he needs more blood cells, not fewer. If you can’t see that, then at least leave him as he is and wait for his body to eventually recover on its own.”
Miss Sents’s protests were ignored and over the next three years, Dr. Gideon continued his policy of letting blood from Mr E. Conomy. Mr. E. Conomy didn’t recover though. In fact he looked worse than ever.
By the fourth year, Dr. Gideon, noticing the pale and shrivelled look of his patient, decided to drastically reduce the amount of blood he was letting at each visit but he didn’t want to tell anyone he was doing that. He did just a tiny bit each time to show he was sticking to his “tough policy” because he was afraid of what people would say if he changed course.
Then the miracle happened. Mr. E. Conomy started to recover and once he started to recover, the recovery was quick. With every month that passed, his strength grew and within a year he was almost as strong as he was when the illness struck.
Dr. Gideon was made a hero. Stories of the success of his bloodletting on Mr. E. Conomy spread far and wide. Perhaps it would not be unfair to say that Dr. Gideon was a major factor in spreading them.
And what became of Miss Carmen Sents? When Mr. E. Conomy learned exactly what had cured him, and of the erstwhile protests of Miss Carmen Sents, he fired her and sent her out of his house to live on the streets. After all, the success of his treatment was obvious and where would he have been if people had listened to her?
Sadly, in all of the bravado, no one seemed to notice that in every previously recorded case of anaemia, the patient had, without bloodletting, recovered much faster than had Mr. E. Conomy.
Sadder still, they now thought that bloodletting was the best way to solve anaemia.