Barber surgeon – Ambroise Pare
Ambroise Pare (1510 to 1590), a great Frenchman was born in 1510 at Laval. He had started from humble beginnings and rose to great heights. He got a barber’s apprentice since he belonged to a family of barbers. He worked as a barber dresser to the Hotel Dieu; he was assisting barber surgeons.
Ambroise Pare served as a military surgeon. The Medical Faculty of Paris qualified him as a master barber surgeon.
Ambroise Pare possessed great originality and powers of keen observation. He had gained the distinction of being appointed as the private surgeon to French Kings.
Ambroise Pare was serving the French armies and having his private practice in Paris. A famous saying of Pare – “I dressed him, God cured him.”
In his earlier career Pare refers to an anecdote. After a battle, he was making rounds accompanied by the head-soldier caring for the wounded. They entered a barn and found three hopelessly injured soldiers.
The head-soldier asked Pare if anything could be done to save them; Pare replied that nothing could be done. The veteran head-soldier took his sword and chopped off their heads, “gently and without ill-will towards them”.
Euthanasia was existing at that time! When reprimanded by Pare, the head-soldier said that he prayed God that in similar circumstances someone would do the same for him (head-soldier).
Ambroise Pare gave a succinct account of plague. People used to quit the house at the sight of a rat-fall in the vicinity and shift to neighbouring camps, viz., tents provided for temporary residence.
The kith and kin abandon each other, judging the horror and peril of the pestilence.
It was a common practice to cauterize gun-shot wounds by pouring boiling oil into them; also bone ends of amputated limbs and blood vessels therein were cauterized.
Ambroise Pare proved that the so-cauterized wounds took longer time to heal. He ligated the bleeding vessels and healing was quicker.
Ambroise Pare had to perform the first exarticulation of an elbow joint in a cowshed. The patient developed lockjaw (tetanus). Pare did not lose hope; he ultimately recovered.
Pares inventive measures included instruments, artificial limbs, trusses for hernia, artificial eyes, tooth implants and method of podalic version in Obstetrics.
Ambroise Pare devised his celebrated ‘puppy salve’ for external application to wounds. It was prepared by mixing earth worms with Venetian turpentine, with the bodies of newborn whelps boiled in the oil of lilies – What a fantastic mixture of ingredients! Imagining in 1990-2000, ‘a folly of the hoary past!’
On the other hand, Pare derided the popular use of two drugs –
i) Mumia, the resinous debris of ancient Egyptian mummies; actually in practice, the dried powder from carcasses was masqueraded as mumia. Who could get such an easy access to Egyptian mummies?
This was prescribed orally as a treatment for the pains of bruises and sprains. What a nauseating remedy! It smelled so badly; fisherman used it as a bait for catching fish! Ignorance is bliss – better not try such inhuman, erratic modes of treatment.
ii) Powder of the horn of unicorn – In practice, the powder of the horn of rhinoceros or even any domestic animal, as an antidote to poisoning. This is also equally repugnant.
Ambroise Pare enjoyed universal esteem. It is said that he was one of the few Protestants who escaped the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day. He died in 1590 as an octogenarian.
- euthanasia (synonym mercy killing).
- voluntary euthanasia = people being able to ask for euthanasia themselves.
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