An appointment at the house of death: the horror of the early Victorian hospital

Dr Lindsey Fitzharris describes the horrors of the early Victorian hospital, where lice and lethal infections flourished, the air was filled with the smell of vomit and rotting flesh, and all too few of those who went under 
the surgeon’s knife lived to tell the tale

Victorian surgeon Robert Liston during an operation

This article was first published in the December 2017 issue of BBC History Magazine

In 1825, visitors to St George’s Hospital in London discovered mushrooms and maggots thriving in the damp, dirty sheets of a patient recovering from a compound fracture. The afflicted man, believing this to be the norm, had not complained about the conditions – and nor did any of his fellow bedmates think the squalor especially note-worthy. Those unlucky enough to be admitted to this and other hospitals of the era were inured to the horrors that resided within.

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