Experts Foretell The Wonderful Feats Of Surgery

The doctors in this article give rather sensible and reasoned responses when asked to predict the near future of surgery. They look forward to better anesthesia, simplification of procedures, etc. But one doctor makes several references to a man named Dr. Carrel, whose work in the area of transplantation he feels has a lot of potential. This got me curious.

So I looked up this Dr. Carrel. What a guy. Dr. Alexis Carrel was the first person to successfully suture blood vessels together. He developed methods of preventing infection during surgery. He worked with Charles Lindbergh to build a machine that circulates blood through organs outside the body. In 1912, he won the Nobel Prize for his work. Sounds good so far.

But there’s a strange and dark side of Dr. Carrel. He kept a chicken heart alive in his office for decades (it even outlived him). His laboratory walls were all black, and he insisted that his staff wear black clothes. He promoted the idea that people can be preserved in suspended animation for hundreds of years. And he was denied tenure at the University of Lyon medical college after he told colleagues that he witnessed a woman miraculously cured by divine intervention.

But the most appalling thing is that Dr. Carrel promoted eugenics. He advocated that gas chambers be used to kill people who are genetically inferior, criminal, or insane. He wrote about this in his book Man, The Unknown, a later edition of which included a note in praise of the Nazis’ “energetic measures.”

In light of this, I was disturbed to come across a 1999 Mother’s Day speech by the late John Cardinal O’Connor of the New York Archdiocese in which he praises Carrel as a good Catholic for standing by his statement that he witnessed divine intervention. O’Connor states, “Dr. Alexis Carrel undoubtedly believed in the extraordinary statement from our Divine Lord in today’s Gospel [Jn. 14:15-21]. ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’” I think the Cardinal did not do his homework on that one.

EXPERTS FORETELL THE WONDERFUL FEATS OF SURGERY: View of Drs. Charles Mayo, John H. Gibbon, Edward Martin, John B. Murphy, Roswell Park, and Others. (PDF)

From July 31, 1910

One response to “Experts Foretell The Wonderful Feats Of Surgery”

  1. A Nonny Mouse Avatar
    A Nonny Mouse

    Such a position on eugenics was actually fairly common at the time. A cousin of Darwin’s was a prominent advocate, if I recall correctly. It is an interesting subject. Many people today still advocate similar objectives, if by different means. You should look into it.

    A handy logo:


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