This example from the early nineteenth century is made from white earthenware and designed for use by children. It was wedge-shaped so that it could be placed underneath the child. The natural coldness of the earthenware was a potential problem for use, however. The instructions for use printed on the bedpan advised that: “The Slipper should not be inserted under the side of the body as the common bed pan but be passed under front. A flannel cap for the toe part held on by strings round the heel will afford considerably comfort to the patient.”
How do simple technologies such as bed pans influence your work in medicine? How do considerations of patient comfort interact with or influence medical decisions? Are there any ethical concerns related to this?
The bedpan was made for the Liverpool Northern Hospital, later the David Lewis Northern Hospital, in 1836. The hospital opened in 1834 at Leeds Street, originally for those who had suffered accidents in the docks. It moved to Great Howard Street in 1845 and remained there until its closure in 1978. It was named for David Lewis after it was rebuilt from 1896-1902, and became part of the National Health Service on its inception in 1948.
The bedpan was purchased at auction in 1996, possibly as part of a sale of the remaining hospital equipment, though this is uncertain.
The Thackray Museum of Medicine is based in Leeds, UK, and houses the collection of the Thackray family, who developed a major medical supply firm over the course of the twentieth century. The museum was opened in 1997 to enable the wider public to learn more about the story of medicine and has recently undergone a multimillion-pound refurbishment.
For more information visit www.thackraymuseum.co.uk