Report of the Trial of an Action: Charles Lowell against John Faxon and Micajah Hawks, Doctors of Medicine, Defendants, for Malpractice in the Capacity of Physicians and Surgeons, at the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine. Holden at Machias for the County of Washington—June Term, 1824 before the Hon. Nathan Weston...

Portland: Printed for James Adams, Jr., 1825. 8vo, 124pp. Original wrappers detached, rather worn, ex-library with bookplate and stamps First Edition. The defense of physicians John Faxon and Micajah Hawks in the case brought by their patient Charles Lowell, who charged incompetence in the treatment of Lowell's dislocation of the hip joint after a fall from a horse in 1821. "Lowell sued Faxon and Hawks for malpractice and asked for $10,000 in damages. In March 1823 a jury . found Faxon and Hawks guilty of malpractice and awarded Lowell $1,962, an extraordinary sum in the early nineteenth century. The physicians appealed the case and won the opportunity for a retrial. The jury in the second trial could not decide on a verdict and passed the case to the trial judge, who awarded Lowell only $100. The defendants appealed this verdict too, which led to a third trial. The jury could not decide on a verdict, and Judge Weston convinced Lowell to drop the malpractice charge permanently. The volume of literature on this case far exceeded the literature published on any other suit in the century and underlines the rarity of the litigation in this period [first third of the nineteenth century]. The Lowell drama generated intense national interest and haunted the central characters for years. The series of trials reportedly cost Lowell $2,000 and left him in financial ruin. Dr. Hawks spent between $2,000 and $3,000 on his defense and labored for years to overcome his debt. Ironically, a postmortem examination of Lowell's injury [which Lowell had asked for in his will] revealed that all the diagnoses offered at the trial had been wrong" (De Ville, Medical Malpractice in Nineteenth-Century America, pp. 13, 18-19; see 9-23). "The history of this case would not be complete were it not mentioned here, that the trunk, head and legs [of the plaintiff Charles Lowell] were buried at Ellsworth [Maine], whilst the bones of the pelvis remain preserved in the Warren Anatomical Museum in Boston" (James A. Spalding, "Micajah Collins Hawkes [sic]" biography in Kelly & Burrage). This case takes on special interest because of the involvement of John Collins Warren, who treated Lowell in 1821 and was a witness in the malpractice case. Warren wrote a defense of his own actions in his Letter to the Hon. Isaac Parker Containing Remarks on the Dislocation of the Hip Joint. (Item Id: 110498)

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