Source:  Snow, John. Medical Times Gazette 4 (1852): 598-99. [ltr. to ed., June12,1852]

Deaths from chloroform in Scotland

[To the Editor of the Medical Times and Gazette.]

Sir,--In a paper which I read at the Medical Society of London, a few weeks ago, on the cause and prevention of death from chloroform, a report of which appeared in your journal, I gave an account of all the deaths from the administration of chloroform, of which I could find any record. I was afterwards informed, however, on undoubted testimony, in two different quarters, of the death of a little boy in the Infirmary at Glasgow, whilst inhaling chloroform, in order to have the bladder sounded [598/599] for stone, some two years ago. No account of this case has ever been published. A death from chloroform occurred in a toe-nail operation at Govan, near Glasgow, in 1848, and the only account the Profession has ever had of this is a brief notice in the Glasgow Herald, which was copied into the medical journals. The particulars were, indeed, published, of the case of the lad Arthur Walker, of Aberdeen,--one of those cases in which death occurred from breathing chloroform for amusement, when no one was present.

But a fatal accident is so much a matter of course, from this proceeding, that such instances do not possess the interest or importance which attaches to cases of death from chloroform in surgical operations.

I have heard it said, that there may have been a number of deaths from chloroform in Scotland, of which we have not heard, as there are no coroners' inquests in that country to insure publicity. I am inclined to think there have been others besides the two I have mentioned, for I have been informed through the journals, and privately, of several cases in which the patients very nearly expired. Dr. Simpson would, no doubt, from his influence and connexion, be able to obtain every information on this point without much trouble; and, if he were to publish the particulars of the deaths from chloroform in Scotland, he would add another to the many services which he has conferred on the public and the Profession in connexion with anæsthetics.

I am, [etc.]

John Snow, M.D.

Sackville-street.

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