Without a doubt, the history of medicine is a dignified one, with a fundamental goal to alleviate human suffering and prolong human life. But it is not without a share of con artists, charlatans and incompetents, whose greatest malevolence was to cast doubts on the real advantages of proven medicine in the minds of unknowing people. Quackery is a derogative term used to express the promotion of fraudulent or unproven medical practices, and a “quack” is a fraud who publicly or professionally pretends that he has the medical skills, knowledge or qualifications that he does not actually possess. Here are three unabashed quacks in the history of pretend medicine who used the most erroneous methods and achieved the nastiest of results. William J.A Bailey (1884 - 1949) This man might have tried to turn a nuclear power plant into a resort hospital. William John Aloysius Bailey was a Harvard drop out who fallaciously proclaimed himself to be a doctor of medicine. He was the president of Radium Company and was known to prescribe radioactive radium to his patients as a cure for fatigue, flu, cough and other common illnesses. He produced many products including Radithor, a solution of radium in water which Bailey claimed would help revitalize tired people, Arium, an “aphrodisiac” for married people whose desire for each other had waned, a radioactive belt-clip for “portable energy” and a radioactive paperweight that would presumably “awaken” tired and weary businessmen. His most noteworthy patient was Eben Byers, an affluent industrialist who took in 1400 bottles of Radithor, before having his entire jaw fall off, and subsequently dying from poisoning. Upon Eben Byer’s death, it was revealed that the radium had devoured gigantic holes in his skull and brain. Walter Freeman (1895 - 1972) There are a lot of things that come in vans, like ice cream, tacos, and even mobile dog groomers . . . but lobotomies is going a bit too far. Walter Freeman was a well-known psychiatrist and neurologist who popularized the lobotomy by making it simple and “handy”. He “perfected” the transorbital lobotomy by inserting a sharp instrument (such as an icepick from his very own kitchen), into the inside corner of the eyes and hammering it until it broke through the skull and penetrated the frontal lobe of the brain. Once it is inside, the instrument was then wiggled to cut neuronal connections. These so-called surgeries were done outside the operating room, without an anesthetic, and only after the patient was put out of action by electroshock therapy. Freeman ultimately created his own lobotomy instrument and called it a “leucotome”. He had to refine it though after one went kaput inside a client’s orbital socket. Even after his license was taken away for killing a patient with his methods, he still travelled around the country in his “Lobotomobile” to render service to the needy - only $25 per lobotomy. He performed 3,439 lobotomies in his entire career, but the physical and psychological damaged he caused was no doubt immeasurable. Albert Abrams (1863 - 1924) Introducing the delightfully devious, devilishly deceptive, diagnosing Dynamizer! I really can't picture Albert Abrams without imagining him on a soapbox trying to swindle the good folks of a small town. Abrams claimed that his invention, the Dynamizer, could diagnose any ailment simply by reading a sample of a patient's blood . . . or handwriting. The absurdity of handwriting proving the same information as blood aside, if given the choice between bleeding or writing, I would always choose writing - wouldn't everyone? Albert Abrams operated the Dynamizer by attaching an electrode to the forehead of a bare-chested assistant. The assistant faced West under dim light, and his abdomen was then struck repeatedly with a mallet. Abrams was, by his own account, able to decipher the vibrations from his assistant's abdomen to determine the disease. If your response was ". . . what?", then you're not alone. The skeptical medical community sent a drop of rooster blood to be analyzed with the Dynamizer - the "patient" was diagnosed with malaria, syphilis, diabetes, and cancer. That's one sick chicken. What's the most ridiculous "cure" you've ever heard of?
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