Excerpts from the official legal summary of the trial of Samuel Thomson

Because Thomson was acquitted without presenting his defense, only the unrebutted testimony of the prosecution witnesses is included in the summary.Thompson had several patients in Beverly and Salem, previous to Monday, the second of January, when the deceased, having been for several days confined to his house by a cold, requested that the prisoner might be sent for as a physician. He accordingly came, and ordered a large fire to be kindled to heat the room. He then placed the feet of the deceased, with his shoes off, on a stove of hot coals, and wrapped him in a thick blanket, covering his head. In this situation he gave him a powder [Ed: Lobelia, Lobelia inflata] in water, which immediately puked him. Three minutes after, he repeated the dose, which in about two minutes operated violently. He again repeated the dose, which in a short time operated with more violence. These doses were all given within the space of half an hour, the patient in the mean time drinking coffee [Ed; marsh rosemary, Statice caroliniana (Statice limonium L var. caroliniana Gray), and bayberry, Myrica cerifera]. The deceased, after puking, in which he brought up phlegm, but no food, was ordered to a warm bed, where he lay in a profuse sweat all night. Tuesday morning the deceased left his bed, and appeared to be comfortable, complaining only of debility; and in the afternoon he was visited by the prisoner, who administered two more of his emetic powders in succession, which puked the deceased, who, during the operation, drank of the prisoner’s coffee, and complained of much distress. On Wednesday morning, the prisoner came, and after causing the face and hands of the deceased to be washed with rum, ordered him to walk in the air, which he did for about fifteen minutes. In the afternoon, the prisoner gave him two more of his emetic powders, with draughts of his coffee. On Thursday, the deceased appeared to be comfortable, but complained of great debility. In the afternoon, the prisoner caused him to be again sweated, by placing him, with another patient, over an iron pan, with vinegar heated by hot stones put into the vinegar, covering them, at the same time, with blankets. On Friday and Saturday, the prisoner did not visit the deceased, who appeared to be comfortable, although complaining of increased debility. On Sunday morning, the debility increased, the prisoner was sent for, and came in the afternoon, when he administered another of his emetic powders with his coffee, which puked the deceased causing him much distress. On Monday, he appeared comfortable, but with increasing weakness, until the evening, when the prisoner visited him, and administered another of his emetic powders, and in about twenty minutes repeated the dose. This last dose did not operate. The prisoner then administered pearlash mixed with water, and afterwards repeated his emetic potions. The deceased appeared to be in great distress, and said he was dying. The prisoner then asked him how far the medicine had got down. The deceased, laying his hand on his breast, answered here; on which the prisoner observed that the medicine would soon get down and unscrew his navel; meaning, as was supposed by the hearers, that it would operate as a cathartic. Between nine and ten o’clock in the evening, the deceased lost his reason, and was seized with convulsion fits; two men being required to hold him in bed. After he was thus seized with convulsions, the prisoner got down his throat one or two doses more of his emetic powders, and remarked to the father of the deceased that his son had got the hyps like the devil, but that his medicines would fetch him down; meaning, as the witness understood, would compose him. The next morning, the regular physicians of the town were sent for, but the patient was so completely exhausted that no relief could be given. The convulsions and the loss of reason continued, with some intervals, until Tuesday evening, when the deceased expired.
 
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner           




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