Friday, May 27, 2016

Pseudo Medicine?

Newspaper clipping: Senator Tobey's Daughter Lobbies for Multiple Sclerosis ResearchAt Rauner we have several large manuscript collections which focus on New Hampshire politicians, one of which is the papers of Charles W. Tobey. Tobey, a former governor and senator from New Hampshire, spent more than twenty years in Washington. During that time he was a member of many important committees that influenced the direction of the country, including the Senate Crime Investigating Committee, the Banking and Currency Committee and the Interstate Commerce Committee. However, it was a subject close to home that became the focus of some of his political pursuits in the late 1940s. His daughter Louisa was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1942, and a few years after that, his son Charles, Jr. was diagnosed with cancer, two diseases for which there were few effective treatments.

In response, Tobey did two things. He introduced a bill designed to amend the Public Health Service Act to include research for "the prevention and treatment of Multiple Sclerosis and Related Neurological Diseases," in 1949, and he turned to several doctors who promised help through unconventional treatments: Dr. Elias R. Leikind and Dr. Robert Lincoln.

S.102: Senate Bill to Amend Public Health Service ActDr. Leikind received his medical degree from Northwestern University Medical School and practiced medicine in New York City. His medical thesis was that "there is an inflammatory process in the pelvis, male and female, that gives evidence of its diseased state not in an abnormal condition in itself but with various symptoms distantly removed in other parts of the body." Reactions from the established medical community were less than favorable. However, Louisa (Tobey) Dean and her husband Sterling were strong supporters, recommending Leikind to the many people contacting Louisa on a daily basis needing help. When Leikind was finally allowed to present his thesis in a paper in front of the Monroe County Medical Society in 1949, the Society concluded that Leikind's treatment was "without scientific proof or merit." Leikind relied heavily on anecdotal evidence from his patients and he lobbied relentlessly, to no avail, be be heard and accepted by the broader medical community.

Extension of Remarks by Senator Tobey, April 18, 1953Letter from Surgeon General to Tobey, March 6, 1950Dr. Robert Lincoln, on the other hand, fared better than Leikind initially, and even had the support of the Surgeon General. Lincoln's research focused on bacteriophages, viruses that "parasitically attack and destroy specific bacteria." The first patients he treated where people who suffered from sinusitis but Lincoln soon discovered that his treatments were also successful for more serious illnesses, including cancer. Charles Tobey, Jr. had been diagnosed with "the second most vicious form of cancer known to man," and his doctors had given him one or two years to live. After Lincoln's treatment his cancer went into remission and Charles, Jr. and his father Senator Tobey became fervent supporters of Lincoln, trying often, unsuccessfully, to get the traditional medical community, including the American Cancer Society and the National Research Council, to support Lincoln.

If you want to look deeper into the fight between traditional medicine and experimental treatments, including testimonials from patients, ask for ML-3.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

For the Love of Beauty

Early skin grafting from Gaspare Tagliacozzi's De curtorum chirurgia per insitionem.OUCH! This poor guy is benefiting from the latest in medical technology. Too bad he lived in the 16th century.  This early example of skin grafting, where the skin is peeled up from the arm and then grafted to the face, is from Gaspare Tagliacozzi's De curtorum chirurgia per insitionem (Venice: Apud Gasparem Bindonum, 1597), the first western book to describe the techniques of plastic surgery. The skin had to remain attached to the arm to facilitate blood flow until the graft took to the face. The straight-jacket like outfit immobilized the arm relative to the face. It couldn't have been comfortable.

Tagliacozzi was ahead of his time in many ways. He was a strong advocate for sanitation, and worked to minimize scars from grafts. His work pioneered plastic surgery in Europe.

You can see this book in our current exhibit, "The Doctor Will See You Now," on display in the Class of 1965 Galleries in Rauner through June 13. The exhibit was curated by students from Sienna Craig's First-Year writing seminar, "Values of Medicine." After the exhibit comes down, ask for Rare QM21.P528.