Fortunately, we live in a world with modern medicine. Usually, we can rely on our doctors to make or keep us well. But this hasn’t always been the case. A lot of bad diseases and viruses wiped out entire populations before the invention of antibiotics, antiretroviral drugs, vast medical and anatomical knowledge, and many more marvels of today.
Along the way, there was a great deal of medical trial and error and many people suffered as a consequence. These treatments often caused disastrous results that outweighed any potential benefits. Here are 10 of the most macabre medical treatments history has ever known.
Bloodletting is an old, macabre medical practice that’s been around for millennia. A physician “lets the blood out of” (drains) a living patient to cure an ailment or disease. This is usually based on completely bunk medical knowledge.
Sometimes, bloodletting managed to help people battling various illnesses—for instance, obese people dealing with metabolic issues. Usually, though, it hurt more than it helped.
The procedure is fairly straightforward and simple, even though it will make you squeamish if you aren’t fond of the sight of blood. You take a lancet, knife, razor, or any sharp object and cut open a vein, usually on the patient’s arm.
The physician would then place a collecting device, such as a bucket, below the patient to catch the draining blood. While the intention was to draw out pathogens, viruses, evil spirits, and more, the usual consequence was simply draining blood from the already suffering victim and further weakening his already compromised immune system.
One can almost imagine a medieval scene with a sick person groaning in agony, arm stretched out while a physician takes a knife and cuts the person open to collect his blood in a bucket below him.
9. Plastic Surgery
In the West these days, plastic surgery is an afternoon off and a minor investment. It’s so common that we almost consider it a rite of passage, even among teens and preteens. A little bit of anesthetic and some painkillers and you can look how you’ve always wanted.
But such surgery wasn’t always an easy experience. Even in ancient history, we have evidence of rhinoplasty (aka “nose jobs”) and other forms of plastic and cosmetic surgery to keep the people of the day looking sharp.
The ancient people of India were particularly fond of various plastic surgeries, even offering breast reduction surgery. All of this would be done with the sharpest of rocks, knives, or other objects that could remove the flesh of a living, breathing patient—without the use of any of today’s modern pain meds, of course.
The Sushruta Samhita, an ancient Indian text from about 600 BC, describes such practices and how they went about their ancient version of nip and tuck. So how would you feel about getting dental surgery in the old days to cover up some not-so-beautiful teeth? There is evidence of plastic surgery and cavity cover-ups as far back as 7000 BC, long before the invention of local anesthetics.