How Lincoln's Death Saves Lives Today

Young doctor tried mouth-to-mouth, made it popular
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2015 12:44 PM CDT
Abraham Lincoln in 1858.   (AP Photo/W.A. Thomson, File)

(Newser) – The young doctor treating Abraham Lincoln knew the bullet wound was mortal, but 23-year-old Charles Leale managed to keep the president alive for nine hours. In doing so, Leale used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation—and helped make it the standard lifesaving technique it is today, a public health official recounts in the Los Angeles Times. As Aizita Magana explains, mouth-to-mouth had been around for a while before Lincoln's assassination, but physicians of the day frowned on it as "vulgar" and instead used the technique of raising and lowering a person's arms.

Leale didn't mention his use of mouth-to-mouth on Lincoln initially, but he spoke about it in 1909, and the Lancet medical journal immediately followed up with a positive article. As a result, "mouth-to-mouth became part of the lifesaving formulary again, eventually adopted by the military and the (American Medical Association)," the Times notes. Magana marvels at Leale's use of the out-of-vogue treatment: "I found a little academic article and I fell back in my seat when I read it." Click for the full piece in the Times, or to read Magana's research in Frontiers.

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