Monday, April 18, 2011

Ebenezer Hazard

Although their relationship had been cool for several years, Ebenezer Hazard had once been Dr. Benjamin Rush's best friend. When Hazard, a merchant and sometimes public official, feared he had caught the fever, he called Rush but found him as exasperating as ever. On Monday, Rush thought him "very ill" but not in immediate danger, and had Hazard lose 12 to 15 ounces of blood and take a mercury pill. On Tuesday he thought Hazard still "in jeopardy," and he had him lose another 10 ounces of blood and continue taking pills. On Wednesday Rush once again prescribed bleeding. Hazard felt his own pulse and objected. Rush warned him, Hazard wrote, that "this opinion [is] one of the most dangerous symptoms of the case; the disorder was extremely insidious; the case extremely critical; not a moment to be lost; send for the bleeder directly. In the mean time, take this pill; and, if that does not operate in one hour, take this. You must be glystered today; but, if your not bled today, I shall not be surprised to hear that you are dead tomorrow."

Hazard called in Dr. Hodge, who offered to consult with Rush, as they had often done before. Rush refused, and, in a letter to his wife fumed that Hodge "has seen a great deal of the disorder, but he is no more wiser for it than the black nurses who attend the sick."

Hodge prescribed Peruvian bark and wine. As he recovered Hazard recoiled at the newspaper ads for "Dr. Rush's Mercurial Sweating Purge," which reminded him of ads for a "mountebank." Recalling the doctor in the novel Gil Blas, Hazard dismissed Rush as "a perfect Sangrado, [who] would order blood enough to be drawn to fill Mambrino's helmet, with as little ceremony as a mosquito would fill himself upon your leg."

Rush wrote to his wife that purging and bleeding "laid the foundation" of Hazard's cure.

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