Thomas Davies of Welshpool
At the beginning of 1891, an elderly man was admitted to Forden Workhouse but died a few hours later. The Board of Guardians decided to ask the medical officer, Dr Gill, to report to a meeting of the Board to explain what had happened. This is the report as entered in the workhouse minutes:
In accordance with your wish I beg to report on the case of the late Thomas Davies who unfortunately died at the Union House on January 8th, a few hours after his admission.
On January 7th an Order was brought to my home by the Relieving Officer W. Fortune, to visit the deceased at this home in Sun Passage, Welshpool, with a view to his removal to the Union House.
I was absent from home in the Country, but the case was immediately visited by my deputy and partner W F E Marston, a gentleman of mature age, great experience, who possesses the same registered Medical qualifications as are held by myself, and who has been my colleague for the last five years.
Mr Marston found the deceased fully dressed, and sitting up in a chair, he was carefully examined by the Stethoscope, and in other ways, and was found to be suffering from general debility, a feeble heart, and very severe ulceration of both legs.
He was living alone, in a terribly filthy and neglected state as to his person, the single small room which he occupied was very foul and dirty, and contained no proper bed, but only a narrow sort of couch on which the deceased was believed to sleep and from which he might very easily have fallen, his ulcerated legs had evidently not been properly attended to for some time and gave rise in consequence to a most horrible stench, which polluted the air of the room, and could I am informed be perceived outside the door; altogether Mr Marston considered this to be the worst case of dirt and neglect that he had ever seen. The deceased expressed a wish to be removed to the Union House, saying to Mr Marston that he should be better off there, and he had I believe applied to the Relieving Officer in the first instance with a request that he might be removed.
Mr Marston after a careful examination found nothing in the appearance or condition of the patient to indicate that he was unfit for removal, his pulse was fairly good, and there was no difficulty of breathing or other unfavorable symptoms and he therefore acting on my behalf and on my responsibility sanctioned his being removed, directing that he should be conveyed to the Union House in a closed carriage, and should be supplied with milk and brandy on the journey; a nurse was also placed in charge of the case till arrangements could be made for his removal.
Later in the day Mr Marston visited Thomas Davies a second time as a report reached him that the patient had fallen and had cut his head, but this was found not to be the case as he was again carefully examined and found quite uninjured, the possibility of such an accident naturally however increased one's anxiety that he should be placed under proper care.
On my return home Mr Marston reported the case to me and I entirely coincided in his opinion that removal to the Union House was the best course to pursue in the case, and endorsed the action he had taken.
I would beg to add that it is quite possible that Thomas Davies might have died whether he was removed or not, and on the other hand there was every reason to hope that removal from the filthy room which he occupied, to pure air, and the attention and care he would certainly receive at this House might prolong his life.
I would also beg to point out that there must always be a certain amount of risk in removing or causing the heart exertion or excitement in the case of an aged person suffering from a feeble heart, but this risk is of the same nature as that incurred in administering Chloroform or performing any surgical operation, and must be taken when in the opinion of a competent Judge the prospective advantages outweigh the dangers especially where the patient himself is anxious for removal as in this case. Your Medical Officer can but act to the best of his judgment in what are often most trying and difficult cases. I cannot guarantee that any man, myself for instance, or even any Member of this Board here present may be alive in 24 hours and the death of this poor old man, which I deeply regret, is one of those accidents which may and must occasionally occur, in spite of the greatest care, when dealing, as I have to do, with large numbers of aged, diseased and feeble persons.
In conclusion I would beg to direct the special attention of the Board to the following points:
The deplorably filthy and neglected condition of the deceased, and the unwholesome state of his surroundings.
His own expressed desire for removal
That he was visited twice and carefully examined by a competent and experienced Medical man
That he was removed with all reasonable care and precaution.
the honour to be,
Your faithful servant
(signed) John Gill
Dist. Med. Officer"
Having listened to Dr Gill's submission, the Board unanimously accepted his course of action.