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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course The Story of Phlebotomy: A Historical Perspective. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Dr. Benjamin Rush signatory to the Declaration of Independence

1600s Through 1800s - Bloodletting Still Used in Spite of Opposition

Even though the tide was turning, a tradition of several thousand years dies hard. In spite of growing arguments against bloodletting there were physicians, even in the early part of the 20th century, that were proponents for its use. In fact, a textbook published in 1923 entitled The Principle and Practice of Medicine recommended its use. Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), who was famous for his tireless work during the 1793 and 1797 yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia, was an outspoken proponent of bloodletting. In spite of mounting opposing sentiment, It was his position that all febrile illnesses were caused by “irregular convulsive action of the blood vessels.” He believed in aggressive bloodletting and vigorous purges. He was known to remove extraordinary amounts of blood from his patients and often bleed them several times.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons