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Excerpted from Reinventing Medicine by Larry Dossey. Copyright 1999 by Larry Dossey. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"He had convinced himself early in the day that he was going to die."

Larry Dossey, Reinventing Medicine, Part 2

Between three and four in the afternoon, two more physicians, Gustavus Brown and Elisha Cullen Dick, arrived. Craik and Brown agreed on a diagnosis of quinsy, what we today would call acute streptococcal pharyngitis, or strep throat. They decided on more bleedings, blisterings, and purges with laxatives. But Dick, a thirty-seven-year-old graduate of the University of Edinburgh School of Medicine (also Craik's alma mater), dissented. It was his view that Washington was suffering from "a violent inflammation of the membranes of the throat, which it had almost closed, and which, if not immediately arrested, would result in death."

Dick urged that a radical new surgical procedure be performed that he had learned about in Scotland for cases like this--a tracheotomy below Washington's infected, swollen throat to allow him to continue to breathe. But this was too much for the senior physicians Craik and Brown, and they would not agree.

Dick took another tack. At the very least, he pleaded, do not bleed Washington again. "He needs all his strength--bleeding will diminish it." Again Craik and Brown ignored the younger doctor. They asked for and obtained Washington's consent to bleed him a fourth time. Washington rallied briefly, long enough for Craik to give him calomel and other purgatives.

Shortly thereafter, George asked Martha to come to his bedside. He requested that she bring his two wills and burn the old one, which she did.

Washington continued to defer to the advice of Craik and to refuse the suggestions of the younger man. He had convinced himself early in the day that he was going to die. "I find I am going. My breath cannot continue long," he whispered to Lear, to whom he gave instructions for the arrangements of all his military papers and accounts. Then Washington smiled and said with perfect resignation that death "is the debt which we must all pay." To Craik he whispered a little later, "Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go. My breath cannot last long." A lifelong stoic, he did not complain, although he must have been in terrific pain.

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