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Leeches and Lancets: Blood-Letting’s Longer-than-Expected History

Leeches and Lancets: Blood-Letting’s Longer-than-Expected History

K.A. Woytonik, Ph.D. Candidate, University of New Hampshire

Of all the remedies that may haunt a medical historian’s dreams, blood-letting, or “bleeding”, is right at the top. It conjures up images of leeches and Sweeney Todd; it seems very far-removed from the high-tech medical treatments of today (case in point: medical leeches started to make a comeback, but creeped out patients to the extent that researchers are creating a mechanized leech-equivalent). When we go in for phlebotomy, or bloodwork, nobody is waiting for us with a lancet and bowl as an eighteenth-century patient would have encountered, but it’s worthwhile for us to think about humans’ relationship with blood, and why blood-letting made so much sense to physicians for so long. Read More.

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