Dr. Louis Discredits Bloodletting

Bloodletting had been a popular form of rehabilitation since 460 BC, according to the British Columbia Medical Journal. It was usually performed through venesection, or the cutting open of the vein on one's forearm, but leaches were also used. The website also describes the instruments used, which were thumb lancets, or "two-edged instruments often with an ivory or tortoiseshell case" and fleams, or " devices with multiple, variably sized blades that folded into a case like a pocketknife" (Greenstone). While bleeding was a popular practice even through the 19th century, in 1936 Dr. Pierre-Charles-Alexandre Louis, a French Doctor, did a study looking into its effectiveness. On another webpage from the BCMJ, Louis is described to have written a paper on his findings, which were that the procedure was "actually much less than has been commonly believed (Greenstone). I found this significant because the novel starts in 1827, which is 9 years before Louis discredits bleeding someone. However, the novel was published in 1848, 12 years after the essay. This shows that Bronte might have had an idea of the ineffectiveness of bloodletting. She illustrates a change in Arthur's temperament after being bled, becoming more subdued and demure. This could be because of weakness from the blood loss. I also can imagine that this practice was painful and I think it might be a way Bronte is exacting revenge upon Arthur, giving the reader, as well as Helen perhaps though unlikely due to her piety, a sense of righteous vengeance.

It has been half a fortnight since my dear little Constance has taken ill. She is thrown into a feverish mania at times, appearing to have delusions. Her forehead burns as though she had been by the fire for some time. Her face is pale, void of her usual ruddy gaiety. I sent for the doctor yesterday. He suggested he try to have her bled, to rid her of this intolerable illness. But how it frightens me so! I know it will help, deep down - the doctor told me it would so why would it not? However, despite my prayers to God and my reliance on Him to cure her, I cannot shake this feeling of dread, What if it is her time? What if heaven already has a place for her, waiting for her? I worry that this procedure will be the death of her. Yet, I must keep my sports up; if not for myself then for her. It would do no one well to scare the poor child. After all, the doctor must know what he is doing. My husband had a friend who was bled when taken ill and he recovered fully. There is no reason why Constance, a healthy young girl, could not recover just as well or better than he. I tell myself these things as I watch her, tossing and turning in her bed, covered in sweat and tears. I pray that this will work. And this prayer is for my own comfort.

Works Cited

Davis, Audrey and Toby Appel. "Bloodletting Instruments in the National Museum of History and Technology" Project Gutenburg. 7 July 2010. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/33102/33102-h/33102-h.htm 

Greenstone, Gerry. "The History of Bloodletting" British Columbia Medical Journal. Feb. 2010. https://bcmj.org/premise/history-bloodletting

Greenstone, Gerry. "The Roots of Evidence-Based Medicine" British Columbia Medical Journal. Oct. 2009. https://bcmj.org/premise/roots-evidence-based-medicine

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