This formed a kind of public health measure that brought the medical profession into dialogue with the public. Those in the vicinity of a drowning person were encouraged to intervene as best they could following the medical advice printed by societies and states, with individuals often receiving a reward for successful revivals. There were several different kinds of intervention that were recommended to revive drowning persons, including warming the individual and performing mouth-to-mouth breathing.
One important intervention advocated by the medical profession was the administration of tobacco smoke enemas, and they were used across eighteenth-century Europe. This tobacco resuscitator kit was owned by the Cremill (now Cremyll) Passage Lifeboat Station, Cornwall, UK. The inscription on the lid reads ‘Plym & Tamar Humane Society’, a local version of the national Royal Humane Society.
The good condition of the kit indicates that it was rarely or never used. It contains all of the relevant materials needed to perform a tobacco smoke enema – bellows, piping, flints to make a spark, several oils – though is missing tobacco.
Do you think it was appropriate to encourage the public to intervene in drownings? What ethical issues might arise from this? The resuscitator kit built on the latest medical theories: do you think that it was appropriate to ask the public to use such kits? You might compare the tobacco resuscitator to modern defibrillators.
• Bottle of oil with part contents
• A paper label which reads: W. SMITH Surgical Instrument & Truss maker, 2 New Street, East End of 7 Thomas Street, Southwark, London, late of St. Saviours Ch. Yard
• Bottle of spirit of hartshorn with part contents
• Bottle of oil of olives
• Bone rectal nozzle x2 (different sizes)
• Laryngeal tube, silver x2
• Gum elastic tube with ivory mounts
• Rubber bulb with ivory mount with screw-on ivory cap
• Hand bellows made of brown leather, handle from wood
• Flexible tube reinforced with coiled wire, brass female mount at one end and male mount at other end, together with three differently sized ivory plug-in nozzles
It was owned by the Cremill (now Cremyll) Passage Lifeboat Station, Cornwall. Its good condition suggests it was rarely, or never, used.
The Thackray Museum of Medicine purchased the item for the museum in 1997. Object reference 936.001.
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