George Washington's doctors absolved

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Poor medical care didn’t kill George Washington, a new study concludes--his final illness was a hopeless situation.

The death of the U.S. founding father from a throat infection at 67 triggered an immediate and still-smoldering debate over whether doctors contributed to his demise, in particular through their copious blood extractions. Blood letting was standard medical practice then, though it was already questioned in some quarters.

The author of the new study [Michael Cheatham of the Surgical Intensive Care Units at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Florida] claims Washington would almost certainly have died no matter what his three physicians did.

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Randll Reese Besch - 8/22/2008

Though leeches are very good at keeping blood flowing and are even used now there is a danger. The bacteria that live in the gut of leeches can be expelled and cause serious harm, even death if you get it in you blood stream.

Vernon Clayson - 8/21/2008

This is a nothing comment because Michael Cheatham's reasonings that Washington would not have survived longer are not given. Apparently in Wahsington's time bloodletting was considered a treatment even though it was done with leaches rather than opening an artery or vein; it's amazing they hadn't learned from observing wounds that losing blood was deleterious to a man's wellbeing. That aside, doctors now rule out a dozen inflictions, carefully anaylzing and recording each result, before arriving at the most likely cause; lacking anything this sophisticated in the case of Washington, what did Michael Cheatham base his findings on? He has no more insight about Washington's illness than any layman today, given that I say he could have lived to a ripe old age had they opened the windows and not "let" his blood.