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Jury Clears, Yet Condemns Dr. Haiselden

From: Dr. Haiselden And The Bollinger Baby
Creator: n/a
Date: November 20, 1915
Publication: The Chicago Daily Tribune
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Justified in Refusing to Operate on Baby, but Is Faulty in Diagnosis

Board is Proposed.

Dr. Harry J. Haiselden was vindicated but at the same time inferentially criticized, yesterday.


A coroner's jury, composed of six leading physicians and surgeons, declared the chief of staff of the German-American hospital was "morally and ethically" within his rights in refusing to perform an operation which would have saved the life of Allan J. Bollinger, a deformed baby.


The vindication was not without its bitter sting. The jury declared it found no evidence that Baby Bollinger would have become mentally or morally defective, as Dr. Haiselden believed. It expressed the belief that the infant's physical defects might have yielded in a measure to plastic treatment.

Vindicated on Ethics

The vindication of Dr. Haiselden was set forth in these words in the verdict:


We believe that, morally and ethically, a surgeon is fully within his rights in refusing to perform any operation which his conscience will not sanction. We find no reason to believe that the parents of Allan J. Bollinger were deprived of the privilege of consultation.

The Rebuke

The rebuke which the vindication carried was pointed by the following recommendations.


We recommend strongly that in all doubtful cases of this character a consultation of two or more surgeons of known reputation for skill, ethical standing and broad experience should decide upon the advisability or inadvisability of operative measures.

"Duty to Prolong Life"

Though the verdict sustains Dr. Haiselden as "morally and ethically" right, the document closes with these significant words:


We believe that the physician's highest duty is to relieve suffering and to save or prolong life.


Dr. Ludwig Hektoen, professor of pathology in Rush Medical college of the University of Chicago, was foreman of the jury. The other members were: Dr. Howard Chislett, dean of Hahnemann college; Dr. Henry F. Lewis, head of the obstetrical department of Cook county hospital; Dr. D. A. K. Steele, dean of the Physicians and Surgeons Medical college of the University of Illinois; Dr. Arthur Rankin, professor of anatomy of Loyola university; and Dr. John F. Golden, associate of Dr. J. B. Murphy at Mercy hospital.

Physical Condition Found

In its verdict the jury also found that death came to the child from a cloture of the end of the intestines. Aside from this defect the jury found as follows:


"A fusion of the two kidneys into one located on the left side, absence of the right external ear and of the external auditory canal; a defective development of the skin over the shoulders, especially the right, causing an apparent shortening of the neck; absence of all or part of the coccyx.


The acquired pathological conditions are: Small extradural hemorrhages in the spinal canal; small subplural hemorrhages; and the coroner's physician reports an area of hemorrhage in the pia matter in the left Sylvian fissure.


"We believe that a prompt operation would have prolonged and perhaps saved the life of the child.


"We find no evidence from the physical defects that the child would have become mentally or morally defective.


"Several of the physical defects might have been improved by plastic operations."

Dr. Haiselden Gratified

After reading the verdict Dr. Haiselden said:


"I believe the jurors acted conscientiously. I know them all to be of the highest professional attainment, and profound knowledge. Two of them have been respected teachers of mine and their believing that I was technically and morally within my rights in refusing to perform an operation on the child fills me with an intense feeling of gratification. I believe that their finding has fully vindicated my position.


"I thoroughly agree that in all doubtful cases of this character a consultation of more than two surgeons of know reputation should be called. The jury has understated rather than overstated the requirements which I believe to be right and just.


"My entire training and religious belief teaches me that a physician's highest duty is to relieve suffering, but not necessarily to prolong a life which will be a burden to the poor suffering individual. I have advised against operations in cases of advanced cancer of the intestines in which I was morally certain I could prolong life but only at the expense of horrible suffering."


The physician took exception to the jury's expression of belief that a prompt operation could have prolonged the life of the child. He said he believed the application of an anaesthetic would have resulted in death. He also differed with the jurors as to the mental condition of the child and pointed out the pathological report of Dr. Zell in which it was stated that the child's brain had been softened by degenerative processes.

Verdicted Intended Adversely

From "inside" sources THE TRIBUNE obtained an account of the secret deliberations which occupied the jury more than two hours before the formal verdict was given out.

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