Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Morals, or Why Lewis Walker lived ten weeks and didn't matter.

Islington Gazette, 1872

'Dr Lankester held an inquest on Thursday last, at the 'Eaglet', Seven Sister's road, on the body of Lewis Walker, aged ten weeks.

According to the evidence of the father of the child, Daniel Walker, a greengrocer of 54 Andover road, it appeared that the mother of deceased died on the 1st September, and deceased had since been brought up by hand.

[Andover Road was on what's now the Andover Estate and was a filthy, disease riddled hole. Bringing up 'by hand' meant feeding the child watered down condensed milk or some other pap.]

 Latterly, it had diahrrea, and Dr Davidson prescribed for it on Saturday week. The child rallied a little, but then got bad again. It was then put out to nurse, but had no further medical attendance till it was in a dying state on Saturday night. The child died on Monday morning and the medical man, Mr Popham, refused a certificate.

[love the 'it']

Mr H. Home Popham stated that he saw the child on Saturday night, when it was in a state of syncope and so emaciated that he thought it had been ill-treated, and refused a certificate. On examining the body he found it emaciated but clean. On the head was a small bruise, apparently from a fall. Internally the mesentric glands were degenerate, and his opinion was that the child died of exhaustion from diarrhea.

There being no evidence to show that the child had been neglected in any way.

[Except for being starved]

A  verdict of 'Death from natural causes' was returned, and the Jury added that its death was accelerated by want of natural food. They also wanted to append an opinion that the inquest was unnecessary, but the the Coroner disputed their right to do this, stating that, as two medical men had refused to give certificates of the cause of death, there were fully sufficient grounds for holding the inquest. 

He also contented that the jury had no right to express an opinion as to the necessity for an inquest; they were only asked to record their opinion as to the cause of death. Some people, no doubt, thought the Queen should not sit on the throne, but they would get no judge in the kingdom to record such an opinion in a verdict. He was simply there to administer the law. He might say that, as it had been rumoured about the neighbourhood that the child had been neglected, the father ought to feel thankful for the inquiry.

[Starvation isn't neglect?]

Some of the jury refused to sign the verdict, 

[Because they thought the child had been neglected? Or because they thought their time had been wasted?]

but as the coroner threatened to lock them up all night twelve submitted and signed.' 

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