It’s your neck or your arm

I’ve encountered 18th-century convicts getting a reprieve from hanging in return for agreeing to join the army or navy, but this is a new one on me:

On the evening before execution, a respite of 14 days was brought for George Chippendale, and to be continued, if within that time he shall submit to suffer the amputation of a limb, in order to try the efficacy of a new-invented styptic for stopping the blood-vessels, instead of the present more painful practice in such cases. For this indulgence, he, together with his brother and his uncle, had joined in a petition to his Majesty, and thankfully accepted it, appearing in good health and spirits, ready and chearful to undergo the experiment.

(Ordinary’s Account, May 1763.)

I don’t know if any of the medical historians know anything more about the ‘new-invented styptic’, or whether it was successful?

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4 Responses to It’s your neck or your arm

  1. zhoen says:

    I will ask around at work (surgeons), but it’s certainly not a substance still in use today. There are some blood clotting agents, cellulose (nitro-cellulose around then?) and thrombin (definitely not available then), but not really enough to stop the blood for a limb amputation. Electric cautery definitely a 20th century process. Suture tie (Silks) still the standard for large vessels.

  2. Sharon says:

    And also, of course, I’m wondering what was the ‘present more painful practice’…?

  3. I’m guessing cauterization with heat. I’m pretty sure that predates this time period by a while (I know it does in Japan….)

  4. Pingback: Early Modern Notes » George’s choice: an 18th-century convict and a medical experiment

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