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Journal > Volumes > 47 (2016) / 2 (Summer)
Bones of Contention: The Decision to Amputate in Early Modern Germany
Heidi Hausse
Princeton University

The removal of a patient’s limb was the most radical procedure performed by early modern surgeons. It occurred only when a part of the body was considered lost to the “cold fire” (der kalte Brand)—a final, irreversible putrefaction. The harrowing experience held life-altering consequences for patients and their families. By drawing on surgical treatises, correspondences, field manuals, and examination books, this article uncovers a process of negotiation that took place during diagnosis and prognosis in cases of the cold fire. Medical reasoning entered a volatile social space in order to determine the best course of action. The opinions of medical colleagues, patients, family members, friends, and even pastors were crucial to the formation of a shared consensus necessary to undertake a procedure. Amputation was a collective endeavor guided as much by communal concerns as by medical ones.

Pages: 327 - 350