A Case of Death from the Electric Current While Handling the Telephone and an Electric Light Fixture

A. ELLIOT PAINE
1906 Boston Medical and Surgical Journal  
who have kindly allowed the use of their notes, of which the following is an abstract : A married woman about tw» months pregnant had an abortion procured on April 21, 1897. After it she went to her home in Brighton, three or four miles distant, having been told to return the next day for treatment, if she was all right. She became very ill during the night, and the next morning (April 22) her husband went to the address she gave to him, and requested that a physician be sent to care for her.
more » ... to care for her. In response to this two women came out and used instruments, causing her such pain that her cries could be heard all over the house. One remained about an hour, then returned to town saying she would send a physician at once. The other woman stayed until two o'clock. A man came about 4 o'clock in the afternoon but made no other examination than to take her pulse and temperature. He said she was all right and told her husband to send for the family physician. He was called but refused to take charge of the case under the circumstances. The next day (April 23) the husband again went to the house where he had been the day before, but the woman whom he saw pretended to know nothing about the case or that any one from that house had visited the patient on the previous day. Finally she said she would send a physician, who arrived about three o'clock. He made an examination and requested a consultation, and as a result Dr. Marion was summoned. On reaching the house about four o'clock he found the doctor sitting in the dining-room, who told him that an abortion had been done in this case. That on examination he found something in the vagina, which on cutting away he thought was a piece of intestine. The specimen was produced and proved to be about three feet of the small intestine. At this time the pulse was 120, and the temperature 99.5°. Dr. Marion at once recognized the gravity of the case and arrangements were made to have her taken to the City Hospital where she arrived about 7 p.m. At the examination made then it was recorded that she did not look very ill, the abdomen was soft and slightly tender in the lower portion. The bladder contained concentrated urine, flanging from the vagina was a piece of black gangrenous gut about six to eight inches long. Laparotomy was advised and at once performed by Dr. Munro. There was a brownish fluid in the abdominal cavity. In the top of the uterus was a ragged rent one inch long in which the gut was constricted and close to the uterus it was black and gangrenous. The healthy gut was clamped off on each side of the uterus, and the cut ends united. The prolapsed intestine was then pulled upward into the abdomen and cut from its mesentery close to the free edge. It measured sixteen and one-half inches. The rent in the uterus was closed. The upper two thirds of the abdominal wound were sutured, the pelvis was packed and drained. The interior of the uterus was curetted. On the next day (April 24), the patient had recovered fairly well from the operation and was apparently steadily gaining up to 3 p.m., when without warning she suddenly grew worse, became delirious and died. The autopsy by Dr. Draper showed the cause of death to be peritonitis. The similarity of the accident in our case with the first of these is very striking, as in both the perforation followed curetting, and the fetus, or part of it, passed into the peritoneal cavity while the intestine passed out. In the second case it is not known when the uterus was perforated, but probably by the women on the second day. Nor is it known what became.of the embryo. All that is stated is that the uterus was found empty at the time of the laparotomy, nor was anything from it found in the abdomen. In conclusion it must be borne in mind that a spontaneous rapture of a healthy uterus is unheard of under the fourth month. Therefore when such a condition is found it can positively be stated as due to some instrumental or other violence, generally in connection with a criminal abortion. On the night of Nov. 30, 1904, about half past six, I was summoned to go to the Oil Works and it was stated that Harry Masters was dead. He was superintendent of the Standard Oil Works at Brockton and Kingston. I went to the office, and found every one had been too frightened to call me up, and did not dare to touch the telephone. The bookkeeper was in the office, and he said he did not dare to touch anything. I found Mr. Masters' body lying in the inner office on his back. The telephone was by his side ; the cord to the receiver was broken and the receiver lay on the floor. To his right was an incandescent desk lamp, broken, which was suspended from the ceiling by a cord. The bookkeeper said Mr. Masters had come in about ten minutes past six, had called up his house, told them he would not be home for a little while, and had ' just said good-bye and hung up the receiver when he heard a crash and saw a flash of light. He went into the room and found him lying on the floor as I found him. He was not positive whether it was the telephone or the electric lamp cord that was in Mr. Masters' hand, but in trying to disengage it he received a shock himself, throwing him against the wall. The team was sent after the inspector to have him investigate the case, and he immediately came. An officer was placed in charge, and in the morning we went up there and looked things over. When I examined the body, I found the inside of the thumb burned, a deep burn extending to the bone on the forefinger near the knuckle, and a deep burn in the palm of the hand nearly to the bone. The telephone cord was burned off. The cord is not insulated; there is simply a light webbing over small wire. The wire was burned. In examining the telephone, the handle which holds the receiver (nickel plated) was burned on the inside or underneath part. The supposition was that as he went to put the receiver on, his hand came in contact with this metal, and as he took hold of his lamp on the desk to move it, he received the charge from the electric light. Instantly the plugs at the central office were blown out. The expert explains at the inquest that the wire from the telephone was not powerful enough to stand the amount of electricity on it, and blew out the plugs. The inquest shows that
doi:10.1056/nejm190612201552503 fatcat:e4zoqf72yzd7hon5djeoo4x2c4