Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Looking for a doctor/surgeon/physician or midwife?

In Canada we have an excellent publicly funded health care system. And medical knowledge throughout the world is improving all the time. Both things make it something of a shock then, when you look at the health care of the Regency era.

The first line of defense against illness was home remedies. The second line of defense was the apothecary. The third line perhaps was a doctor, if there was one within reach. The names doctor, physician and surgeon were occasionally confused and the duties could overlap. Often the practitioner had little or no training. But education and standards for medical practitioners were improving, and medical discoveries were happening apace during the Regency.

The practitioners that did exist had no hesitation in advertising their services in the newspapers and distributing trade cards that explained their business.

Kentish Gazette Tuesday 2 February 1808
Inoculation had only recently been discovered to be effective, but there were already practitioners advertising their services for the procedure.  
Any number of apothecary/surgeons also advertised their services as 'man-midwives'. I find the name discomforting, and I wonder about the extent of their knowledge and the quality of their ministrations.
Carlisle Patriot Saturday 20 March 1819
Stamford Mercury Friday 2 September 1808
Among the dozens of advertisements for the man-midwife, I could find only one for a female midwife. Her qualifications sound excellent, but it is interesting that she feels she has to list them and offer testimonials when the men simply 'hang out their shingle', so to speak.
Cambridge Chronicle and Journal 1 July 1814
 And finally, there were the 'new' practitioners, listing their association with a particular medical college and ensuring that potential clients know they have been trained and educated in medicine.
Westmorland Gazette Saturday 27 June 1818
Whenever I think that I would like to live in the Regency era, dance with an earl at Almack's, or eat ices at Gunter's, I remember the health care of the era, and I am thankful I live where I do, and in the year 2015.

'Til next time,