Deaths following small pox inoculatons

The following are newpaper reports of deaths following small pox inoculations. In 1840 such inoculations were made illegal.


NOBBS CASE (1838)

The small-pox has been very fatal in the town and neighbourhood of Bridport having been extensively prognated by ignorant and unqualified persons acting as itinerant inoculators. The child of a person named Nobbs, residing at Askerswell, died on Wednesday from inoculated small pox inflicted by one of these persons. [Berkshire Chronicle 17/03/1838 p4].

SMALL POX.—An adjourned inquest was eld by Mr. Frampton, at Askerswell, 19th March, 1838, on the body of Ann Eliza Nobbs. It appeared that the deceased was of the age of two years, and previous to her inoculation, was not affected with any known disease. On the 9th February last, she was inoculated by Richard Williams, of Askerswell, blacksmith and farrier, at the request of her parents, without the body having been previously prepared either by medicine or diet. The inoculator directed a total abstinence from animal food, but to be plentifully supplied with castor oil and senna tea, which was the only medicine administered until the afternoon of the 5th inst. ; the deceased was fed chiefly with arrow root and gruel. She was frequently visited by Williams. On the eleventh day Williams saw the deceased, and the father expressed a wish she should be reinoculated, as he doubted whether the deceased was affected with the disease. Williams requested he would wait two or three days longer. On the twelfth day the child was sickly. On the fourteenth day the eruption appeared on the face and other parts of the child’s person. On the third of March Williams again saw it, when the father expressed his fear the child was in danger from its having a tightness on its chest. Williams said he hoped it was not so ; he could only recommend the course to be pursued he had previously directed. On the 5th instant, Mr. Sweeting, of Bridport, surgeon, visited the deceased, at the request of the parents ; he found her suffering from a heavy attack of the disease, the system highly irritable, much debility, and in a state of exhaustion. He prescribed a cordial medicine with opiates to allay the irritation, with a view to reviving its exhausted frame. He went to visit the child the following day (the 6th) when he found it was dead. Mr. Sweeting stated the cause of death to be small pox ; that if the child was inoculated on the 9th February it was suffering from the effects of the disease then introduced when he saw it ; that the administering of senna tea and castor oil was not sufficient to carry it through the disease, it was inadequate to the severity of the case ; that he should consider a person recommending such treatment only to be ignorant of the practice of medicine, and if the case had been treated as before described it could not have been skilfully done. Mr. Silvester Bryant was examined to shew that a Miss Otton had been at his house for fourteen days preceding the 9th February, that during such time she had taken the disease in the natural way, that he had frequently visited her, that on the 4th and 5th of Feb. he went to the house of Henry Nobbs, the father, and took the deceased on his knee, that on the 8th he was there again, and held her by the hand ; on the 9th, the day the child was inoculated, but not previous thereto, he again visited the house and placed his hand on her arm. The object of this witness was to show that he might have carried the contagion in his person or clothes, and thereby infected the deceased previous to the inoculation by Williams. The Coroner in summing up stated that he had been called on to investigage the case by a gentleman of character and respectability residing in that neighbourhood. In the propriety of the inquiry he fully concurred. He had been told by persons of respectability in the parish, the inquest was unnecessary, but as he differed in opinion from them he had prosecuted the inquiry with a determination to ascertain whether the individual who had inoculated the deceased possessed competent skill to perform the task he had undertaken. It was with pain that he had witnessed so much excitement with respect to this inquiry, inasmuch as he felt it was in some degree for the purpose of deterring him from discharging a public duty. The Coroner stated the law to be, that if any person, whether he be a regular licensed medical man or not, professes to deal with the life or health of her Majesty’s subjects, he is bound to have competent skill to perform that which he undertakes. After recapitulating the evidence he said if they believed the evidence given by Mr. Sweeting, they would return a verdict of manslaughter against Williams. With respect to the evidence given by Mr. Bryant, it ought not to weigh in the consideration of the case inasmuch as the other evidence negatived the possibility of the child’s having taken the disease previous to its inoculation, inasmuch as, it would have manifested itself in its person at a period earlier than it actually did. The Jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict ” That the deceased had died from having taken the Small Pox in a natural way, accompanied with an expression of their opinion that the inquest was unneccessary.” The Coroner, in discharging the Jury, said he felt that they had cast a stigma on him as well as reproach on the gentleman who had required the investigation. With a view to remove the impression, and to show persons in Williams’s situation of life, that unless they possessed competent skill to carry their patients through the pestilential disease which they were disseminating, reckless of human life, they were amenable to the laws of their country, he should use his best endeavours to bring this case, notwithstanding the verdict pronounced, before a superior tribunal for its decision. [Sherborne Mercury 02/04/1838 p3].


HOARE CASE (1848)

IMPORTANT INQUESTS AT BROADWINSOR. On Thursday, Nov. 9, Samuel S. Cory, Esq., of Bridport. Coroner, held two inquests at Broadwinsor, on John Hoare, aged six months, and on William Samuel Hoare, aged three years, (sons of John Hoare, a dairyman residing in the parish of Burstock). In consequence of the children dying from the small pox, having been inoculated by Matthew Symes. It was proved in evidence that on the 21st October last, the father of the children sent for Matthew Symes. Who inoculated the children for the small pox ; and that they received every possible attention, but gradually got worse, and that John died on the 8th, and William Samuel on the 9th instant. Matthew Moran, a police-constable, proved having cautioned Symes against incoculating for the the small pox, as it was illegal : but he took no heed on the admonition. Indeed, he said, that he (Moran) had summoned the said Matthew Symes before the magistrates at Bridport for inoculating in six cases, when the magistrates sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment, being one month for each case. Thomas Palmer Daniel. Esq., surgeon, of Beaminster, most distinctly and clearly stated that the children received the disease of small pox from inoculation, and not naturally, and that the children had died from the effects thereof. After the evidence, the coroner summed up the case to the Jury clearly and concisely, giving the various legal opinions, and stating his opinion, that if any person commits an illegal or unlawful act not amounting to felony, and death thereby ensues even by accident, the party is guilty of manslaughter. By the 3 and 4 Vicioria, c. 29, inoculation for small pox was made unlawful and illegal : Matthew Symes having transgressed the statute committed an illegal and unlawful act, and death ensuing he was conseguently guilty of manslaughter. The jury, composed of eighteen of the most intelligent and respectable gentlemen of the parishes of Burstock and Broadwinsor, coincided in opinion with the coroner, and unanimously returned a verdict of manslaughter against Matthew Symes, of Burstock, baker and beerhouse keeper. The Coroner at once sent two detainers to the Governor of the Dorset County Gaol. [Dorset County Chronicle 16/11/1848 p4].

HOMICIDE BY INOCULATION OF SMALL-POX. On Thursday, November the 9th, 1848, Samuel S. Cory. Esq., of Bridport, Coroner, held two inquests at Broadwinsor, on John Hoare, aged six months, and William Samuel Hoare, aged three years, sons of John Hoare, a dairyman, residing in the parish of Burstock. In consequence of the children dying from small-pox, having received the disease by inoculation by Matthew Symes. It was proved in evidence by the father of the children, John hoare, that he had heard that Matthew Symes was in the habit of inoculating for the small-pox, and sent for him on Saturday, Oct. 21st, 1848, and the said Matthew Symes called the same evening, and inoculated the boys. Mary Holt, a neighbour, proved holding the chidlren on her lap on Oct. 21st, 1848, whilst Matthew Symes inoculated them for ther small-pox in the arm. She saw the children frequenty afterwards ; on the seventh or eighth day, the children were ailing, or sickening, and the eruption appeared on the tenth day after inoculation. She was then in constant attendance on the children, assisting in nursing them. They received every possible care and attention, but they gradually became worse. John died on Nov. 8th, and William Samuel, on Nov. 9th, 1848. Mr. Daniel, the surgeon, had been in attendance.—Betty Bold corroborated the evidence. Matthew Moran, police-constable, proved having cautioned Matthew Symes against inoculating for the small-pox, as it was illegal, and that there was an act. of parliament against it, but he took no heed of the admonition. Matthew Moran further said he summoned Matthew Symes before the magistrates in petty sessions assembled at Bridport, for inoculating for ther small-pox in six cases, when the magistrates sentenced Matthew Symes to six months imprisonment, being one month for each case, the utmost penalty allowed by law. John and William Samuel Hoare were not included in the six cases. Thomas Palmer Daniel, Esq., Surgeon, of Beaminster, most distinctly and clearly stated that the children received the disease of small-pox from inoculation, and not naturally, as he could see the marks on the left arm where the matter of small-pox was inserted, and that both children died from inoculated small-pox, and not otherwise. After the above evidence, the coroner summed up the case to the jury, clearly and concisely giving the various legal opinions, and stating his opinion, that if any person commits an illegal or unlawful act, not amounting to felony, and death thereby ensues, the party is guilty of manslaughter. By the 3rd and 4th Victoria, c. 29, inoculation for small-pox was made unlawful and illegal. Matthew Symes having transfressed the statute, committed an illegal and unlawful act, and death ensuing, he was consequently guilty of manslaughter. The jury, who comprised eighteen of the most intelligent and respectable gentlemen of the parishes of Burstock and Broadwinsor, coincided in opinion with the coroner, and unanimously returned a verdict of manslaughter againse Matthew Symes, baker, and beer-house keeper. The said Matthew Symes being already in Dorchester jail, the coroner at once sent two detainers to the governor of that prison.” [Dublin Medical Press 06/12/1848 p15].