Blood and JusticeThe 17 Century Parisian Doctor Who Made Blood Transfusion History
The 17th Century Parisian doctor who made blood transfusion history... In 1667 a Parisian doctor by the name of Jean-Baptiste Denis performed an operation that had never previously been attempted - he transfused blood into another human being. This was the first attempt at a procedure that over subsequent centuries was to save the lives of thousands of people. But at the time Denis was nearly convicted of murder. The victim of Denis's experiment was a middle-aged man suffering from mad rages. Denis believed that by transfusing the blood of a calf into the man the man would assume the placid nature of the calf. The experiment appeared to work. The highly toxic blood made the man in question very ill and therefore very placid. It is now believed that the man was in fact suffering from syphilis, which induced his violent behaviour. The symptoms of the syphilis would also have been relieved by the high fever that the toxic blood would have induced. Encouraged by this apparent success, though unaware of the reasons for it, many other people attempted similar experiments. Eventually the man died and Denis was arrested for his murder. Further investigations revealed however that the man had not in fact died from the blood transfusion (although he certainly would have done so very shortly) but from cyanide placed in his food by his wife. Giving an insight into the first attempts at a procedure that has gone on to be developed for the benefit of humanity, and into the symbolism of blood throughout the history of medicine, Blood and Justice raises ethical issues that are as relevant today as they were at the time.
Plates. Note on sources. Acknowledgements. ?Cast ?, and people mentioned, in order of appearance. 1 A Vital Fluid. 2 Building on Harvey. 3 English Infusion. 4 Scientific Society. 5 English Transfusions. 6 Denis ?Route to the Top. 7 Precedence and Prison. 8 Playing Catch-Up. 9 Mauroy Mystery. 10 The Great Debate. 11 Mistake, Malice or Murder? Notes. Timeline. Bibliography. Further reading. Index.
Dr Pete Moore is Chairman of the Medical Journalists Association and winner of many awards for his journalism. He is an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Bristol and an official rapporteur at Windsor Castle and private meetings at the House of Lords. He completed post doctoral research fellowships with The Wellcome Trust and British Heart Foundation.
Blood transfusion today is a routine medical procedure. Yet in the 17th century the idea of giving somebody blood rather than blood letting was dangerously unconventional. English pioneers like Robert Boyle, Christopher Wren and Richard Lower had performed a numerous experiments on animals, but nobody except Denis had dared to transfuse blood into a human being. Denis' idea was both simple and radical. By transfusing the blood of a calm, innocent calf into that of the dissolute and insane Mauroy he would cure him of his madness. The moral dilemma was obvious: Should he leave Mauroy in his misery and resign himself to obscurity or should he attempt to play God and earn his place in history?
The year is 1688 and it is a clear Spring day in Paris. At the court of Chastelet a distinguished and learned crowd is gathered to view the trial of Jean-Baptise Denis a bright young mathematician with an interest in medicine. Denis has recently earned himself a place in history by being the first person to perform a blood transfusion on a human being. But things have not gone well for Denis or for Antoine Mauroy, his patient. Mauroy has died and Denis is on trial for murder. This fascinating tale of madness, corruption and intrigue roams from Classical Greece to the London of Sir Christopher Wren and the Paris of Louis XIV. The exploration of profound ethical dilemmas is as relevant today as in Denis' own time.
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