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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Antique medical instrument collector documents unusual items and history

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | May 28, 2014 4:37 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, May 28, 2014:

leech jar 300 x 170.jpg

An antique jar that held leeches for medical treatments.

Thursday's Smart Talk is an encore presentation program.

As much discussion and controversy there is today about health care and its cost, the fact remains that medical science can treat most diseases, illnesses or conditions without too much pain or discomfort for the patient.  In most cases, those treatments are successful.

Not very long ago that wasn't the case.  Often patients would be treated with instruments that caused pain and were used without anything to dull the discomfort.  The cure was sometimes as bad as the sickness or injury.

It's fascinating to see how far we have come in treating patients and illnesses. 

Dr. Douglas Arbittier is an anesthesiologist in York who has collected antique medical instruments and documented medical history for the past 30 years.  He has one of the world's largest collections and many stories to tell about medical history.

Just two words to remember as you tune in to Thursday's program with Dr. Arbittier -- bloodletting and leeches.

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Comments: 4

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-12-10 09:57

    Marcia in Reading emails:

    My father (who would be 96 years old if he were alive) remembered his aunt doing cupping - which involved making a small incision in a patient's forearm then placing a glass "cup" with a suction ball on the top. A clear fluid would be extracted. He thought this was a treatment for hypertension. Any validity to this?


    • Scott LaMar img 2013-12-10 10:14

      From Dr. Arbittier:

      We didn't even get into cupping. There was dry and wet cupping (depended on whether an incision was made or not).
      It was to bring blood to the surface. They still do some cupping in Europe: Quackery.
      Definitely not a currently recommended treatment for hypertension!!!

      • Robert Colgan img 2013-12-10 13:24

        Cupping isn't quackery at all.
        Still common practice in Oriental medicine, and practiced around the world, used to dispel stagnant energy. People report it works well.

        It struck me when I listened to the program today that almost all medical practice over history --until the modern era-- focused on eliminating something from the body as a means of healing: whether it was purging by bloodletting, leeches, fasting, laxatives, emetics, enemas, drilling holes in the body------it had to do with attempting to get rid of something that was thought to be interfering with the body's ability to be self-regulatory.

        In Chinese medical history there were philosophical 'fads' that lasted sometimes for centuries: one fad involved excess heat in the body (all imbalances were thought to be heat related), another fad was cold related (all imbalances the result of an invasion of cold), and their techniques were to move the heat or cold out of the body or introduce the opposite in order to neutralize it.
        Evil spirits are still a vital part of Chinese medicine-----dispelling the demon(s) a necessary requisite to healing.

        Thanks to you, Scott, & Dr Arbittier for an excellent program.

        • Doug Arbittier img 2013-12-10 15:11

          Many thanks for the education, Robert.
          I should not have been judgmental in my use of the word "quackery."
          My study of the techniques is limited to the 19th century and earlier and my descriptions are based on the indications people saw for cupping back then.
          Glad you enjoyed the program!
          Douglas Arbittier MD
          www.medicalantiques.com

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