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Rushden Echo, 6th March 1908, transcribed by Kay Collins
Thomas Charles Hale
Sad Death of a Higham Ferrers Man - Following an Accident at Rushden
Pneumonia Contracted at the Hospital – Was the Treatment Correct?
Coroner’s Remarks on the ventilation – The Jury Divided

In the “Rushden Echo” for Feb 14th we reported a serious accident which had happened the previous day to Thomas Charles Hale, of Higham Ferrers, while employed at the leather factory of Mr Fred Corby, of John-street, Rushden. We now regret to record the fact that. After successfully undergoing an operation after the accident, Hale died on Wednesday from pneumonia at the Northampton Hospital, to which institution he had been removed on the day of the accident.


Evidence of a remarkable character was given at the inquest, which was held at the hospital yesterday by Mr C C Becke, the coroner for the borough of Northampton.

Mr F Joseph Simpson, solicitor, Higham Ferrers, appeared on behalf of the deceased’s relatives.

John Hale, shoe operative, brother of the deceased, said an accident occurred to his brother in a factory at Rushden three weeks ago. His hand was caught in the shaving machine, and the thumb and first finger of his left hand were cut off. Prior to the accident his brother was a healthy man. Witness last saw him alive on Tuesday, when he was very ill. His brother did not make any complaint about the treatment he received at the Hospital. The doctors did not tell witness what was the matter with the deceased. He believed the injuries to his hand were going on nicely. Deceased was in fairly good health before he met with the accident.

Mr Simpson: You say he was in fairly good health. What do you mean?—Witness: He only had bad colds at times.

Had he been attended by a doctor?—Not for 16 years.

The House Surgeon

Dr Myers, House Surgeon, said that deceased was admitted to the Hospital on Feb 13th, suffering from severe injuries to the thumb and first finger of his left hand. Satisfactory progress was made and deceased remained under witness’s care until February 29, when lung trouble developed, and he was place in charge of the physician. Witness did not think deceased had ever been a healthy man.

In reply to the Coroner, witness said that deceased was placed in a ward with plenty of fresh air. Although witness thought deceased was consumptive, he considered he was additionally weakened by the injuries. Witness was of the opinion that the best thing to do with consumptives was to put them in fresh air. All the accidents were placed in the same ward.

The Coroner: How long was it before the patient was put in the Ward; from the time of his admittance?—Witness: I cannot say, as the operation was performed before he was taken to the ward.

Did you examine his lungs before you put him into the ward?—No.

Do you enquire into the

Previous History of a Man

before you put him into the well ventilated wards? The patient might have been residing in a small house or confined in a factory. If that were so, should you still put him into the well ventilated ward?—We do not enquire, and we always put them into the wards, which are all ventilated in the same way.

Did you examine the man at all?—No.

Did you find any signs of lung trouble?—No signs whatever. Last Saturday deceased was put in the physician’s ward, as there were signs of bronchial lung trouble.

Then, during the time he was under your treatment he must have contracted the lung trouble?—That is so.

Mr Simpson: A valuable life has been lost, and I want to know the reason why. Was deceased put under An anaesthetic, and was the operation successful?—Yes.

Was the anaesthetic ether?—Yes.

Is the patient likely to develop pneumonia from the effects of ether?—That is so.

Did you examine deceased before administering ether?—Yes.

The House Physician

Dr C W Berry, house physician, said that deceased was given into his care on February 29. He was then suffering from acute pneumonia, and secondly, bronchial pneumonia. The deceased was in a very weak state. The injuries he had received rendered him less liable to recover from the attack from which he was suffering. Witness did not think the injuries hastened death.

The Coroner: Would the accident hasten death?—No.

Did you think the man was consumptive?—there were no visible signs.

Are you one of the modern school who believe in ventilation, placing a man in the ward without regard to his previous treatment?—Yes.

And for bronchial troubles, lung troubles, and pneumonia you would give a patient

Plenty of Fresh Air?

Witness: Certainly.

The Coroner: The patients are put in these wards, no matter whether they have bronchial trouble?—Yes.

Mr Simpson: Do you agree that pneumonia is likely to set in after ether?—Ether is likely to produce pneumonia, but not acute pneumonia.

Mr Simpson: Did you see the man when admitted?—Yes, I gave him the anaesthetic.

Did he lose a considerable amount of blood?—He was not in a very good condition, and must have lost blood.

Would that not make him weak?—He would have recovered that.

At the time of the operation was he weak from loss of blood?—I do not think he was suffering from considerable

Loss of Blood,

but he was not in a normal condition.

The Coroner: The operation was necessary immediately?—yes.

Mr Simpson: When admitted to your ward was he suffering from Pneumonia?—No.

He developed it since he was admitted to your ward?—Yes.

Do you agree that he would not have had pneumonia if he had not had the accident?—He probably would.

The Coroner: If he had been put into one of your wards?—No, he might have had it outside.

Mr Simpson: Do you think the accident had a direct bearing upon his death?—Witness: No. People are likely to have pneumonia in perfect health.

Coroner’s Summing Up

The Coroner, summing up, said the main point to enquire into was whether deceased died, as the doctors stated, from acute pneumonia, and whether in their opinion deceased was weakened by the accident and was more likely to get pneumonia, his weak state giving him less power to resist the attack. If the Jury accepted the doctors’ opinion, and there was no reason to doubt it was a likely idea, they would have to bring in a verdict of “Death from natural causes, viz., pneumonia.” If they thought the accident had a bearing on his death they could adjourn the inquest and have some direct evidence as to the cause of the accident. The doctors thought it was quite possible for a person to get pneumonia after being operated upon with ether, and also that if in a weak state it would give him less chance of resisting pneumonia than otherwise. There was a diversity of opinion with regard to the methods of

Fresh Air Treatment

in hospitals. People were taken to hospitals and placed in well-ventilated wards, and the result was that, except they were strong, they were apt, and perhaps equally as apt if kept in a more confined ward, to develop troubles of the lungs and elsewhere. It was not for them, however, to try and overrule the doctors and their methods. They had men of modern methods at the hospital, and everything was done that was possible for the benefit of the patients. In some hospitals, however, the results were unfortunate.

Doctors Recalled

Dr Myers was recalled and Mr Simpson asked whether, in reporting the case to the police, he did not say the man died as the result of the injuries to the hand.

Witness: I did not report the case to the police.

Dr Berry stated that he telephoned to the police, and informed them that an inquest would have to be held as the man had died. He did so because it was an accident.

Mr Simpson: Then why have you changed your mind since?

Dr Berry: I reported it as an accident.

A juror asked whether the machinery where deceased worked was grated.

The coroner said that no facts of the accident had been taken, but if the jury wished, the inquiry could be adjourned and full information obtained.

Several of the jurymen were of the opinion that if there had been no accident there would have been no pneumonia.

Jury Divided

The jury retired, and upon their return the Foreman said their verdict was one of “Natural causes.”

Several jurors said the verdict was not unanimous.

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