On December 12th, 1799, 67-year-old George Washington rode for five hours on horseback on the snowy fields of his farm. The next day, he complained of a severe sore throat and sounded hoarse. On day three, he had chills, could hardly speak and had difficulty breathing. He was unable to swallow a mixture of molasses, vinegar, and butter that his doctor prescribed. He tried to gargle but the fluid made him vomit.
In the next 16 hours, his doctor withdrew an incredible eighty-two ounces of blood. That’s five pints of blood. Since “a pint’s a pound, the world around”, he had five pounds of blood withdrawn in 16 hours, which sent him into heart failure. He became dizzy and short of breath and felt that he was dying. He dictated his final will. At six o’clock, he started gasping for breath and at ten o’clock he died.
DIAGNOSIS: His primary symptoms in the order they occurred were: severe sore throat, hoarseness, cough, chills, difficulty breathing and swallowing, drooling; fever, loss of voice, and suffocation. Death was caused by being unable to get air into the lungs. He had epiglottitis. Diphtheria commonly swells the epiglottis so a person cannot breathe or eat, and some claim that he died from airway obstruction caused by diphtheria, but this is unlikely because there were no other reported cases of diphtheria in his household or farm population. Furthermore, diphtheria rarely occurred in adults because the disease usually occurred in childhood, and if you recover from diphtheria, you are immune for life. His death was caused by an infection: hemophilus, pneumococcus, strep, staph, or some other bacteria or virus. The doctor prevented his recovery from the infection by taking five pints of blood in 16 hours, which sent him into shock.
Later that year, a headline appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper claiming his doctor killed George Washington, the first president of the United States. The doctor sued the printer, won his case, and was awarded the newspaper. The printer lost his newspaper because the law is not always fair.