If you were to look over the early history of medical treatments, you can safely state that people back then were engaging in some inhumane and downright cruel practices. However, given the numerous medical advancements of today, who is to say that our successors won’t think the same about us?
1. Conversion therapy
Also known as “the gay cure”, conversion therapy refers to a set of methods to treat homosexuality, which is perceived as a disability or acquired personality trait. Even though some people state this is nothing more than conspiracy theory, the truth is that they only need to check the news to convince themselves these practices are real.
Just this year, the inhumane methods of conversion therapy resulted in 3 adolescent boys dying in a “treatment camp” in South Africa. Without denying that homosexuality is a controversial topic in psychology, this treatment is nothing more than another form of xenophobia manifesting.
2. Insulin shock therapy
As the name suggests, the shock therapy refers to administering a high dose of a certain substance to a patient’s system in order to determine the person to make a desirable change. The practice is especially common within schizophrenics or severe mental illness patients who receive gradually increased doses of insulin until their organism seize to function and they fall into coma. The idea behind the procedure is that rational thinking is somewhere “on the other side of the coma” and that the mentally ill patient will be cured this way. However, in the age of neuroscience, it is clear that insulin shock therapy has nothing to do with medical science.
3. Barber surgeons
The Medieval Ages were undeniably strange times, particularly if you think that while physicians used to come up with a diagnosis by analyzing urine or studding the stars, barbers were the only “professionals” who were doing the “field work” and experimented on their customers up and personal. Perhaps the most widespread task performed by the barber surgeons was bloodletting, the action of releasing the bad, morbid blood from the body to make way for fresh, healthy blood. And, because this was their main responsibility, the barbers advertised their services by placing a red and white stripped pole or a small basin filled with blood in their window shops.
Even though bloodletting is permanently linked to the barber surgeons of the medieval ages, the origins of this old practice can be traced back to ancient Greece. The technique became very popular during the lifetime of Hippocrates who promoted the “humorism” or the theory of the four humors and their direct influence of a person’s health. To summarize, whenever a person experienced an excess or deficit of either blood, phlegm, yellow bile or black bile, his personality and overall health was severely affected. Obviously, the only treatment that could bring back the body’s balance was to drain the blood out of the patient.
5. Radiated water
Humankind’s constant search for the legendary fountain of youth reached a peak with the discovery of radium and other radioactive substances. While we all aware of the dangerous effects of radioactivity on the body nowadays, back then radiated water was perceived as a real miracle that could cure anything, including cancer. In fact, due to its numerous advantages it was even used in toothpaste and other common household goods.
6. The rest cure
Oddly enough, the rest cure was developed in the 19th century, an age when women had already begun to strive for empowerment. Because it implied leaving women in almost complete isolation with nothing to do in bed for up to two months, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Charlotte Perkins Gilmen, a well-known poet of the time, described it as pure madness, especially since this was the common recommended treatment almost exclusively for women patients suffering from hysteria. Women worldwide have Freud and Adler to thank for coming up with more humane practices and sinking the rest cure into obscurity once and for all.
These days when you go to the doctor’s office for a solution to that annoying sore throat or unbearable back pain, he won’t take out a bunch of leeches from a jar and apply them on the affected area. However, the technique of bloodletting using leeches is still practiced today, even by Hollywood stars like Demi Moore who admitted this is the secret to her radiant youthful appearance. As gross as it may sound to have slimy worms feasting on you, it is necessary to mention that leeches did make a difference in the medicine before the 19th century thanks to their effectiveness in preventing clotting.
8. Peg legs
Trademarks of pirates as well as very common prosthesis for veterans of the Civil War who lost one of their limbs, the peg legs are still used today. In spite of their looks and the existence of other more eye-pleasing alternatives, people wearing peg legs claimed they are a lot more comfortable for walking. Granted, modern medicine and science have managed to come up with much better solutions to the old wood fasteners such as in the case of Oscar Pistorius. However, because not everyone can afford state of the art bionic limbs, the peg legs remain a common alternative.
Destroying the connections of the prefrontal cortex and its underlying structures or lobotomy has been a common practice at the end of the 19th century. Even in the modern era some doctors believed that by cutting into the frontal lobe they will detach the nervous centers associated with emotions and intelligence for the purpose of a proper reconnection. However, as it later proved out, the thousands of lobotomies practiced by the promoter of the technique, Dr. Freeman, were mostly made on prisoners and the criminally insane against their will. Not only was the practice a severe infringement of the civil rights, but also useless in treating aggressiveness and underlying mental conditions.
What is nowadays one of the most lethal drugs banned throughout the world was once the ultimate painkiller widely used to alleviate a plethora of conditions, from the simple headache to severe depression. Extensively used even by great personalities such as Sigmund Freud, cocaine lost its “medical cure” status immediately after its first side effects were identified.