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PECULIARITIES OF POOR ITALIANS

This very disturbing article was published by the New York Tribune on October 2, 1887

"The Italians ought to have a hospital of their own," said Dr. Pinkerton at Bellevue Hospital recently, "Just hear that fellow scream; why, it's enough to frighten the tramps in the cells below. What's the matter with him? A crushed leg. It's painful, of course, but that is not what ails him. It's fear that has got possession of him. They are stoics as far as pain is concerned. He thinks that he is going to be killed.

There is some slight excuse for him, as he does not understand our language or ways. His case is a simple one. He was run over by a heavy wagon, and the proper thing to do for him is to amputate the leg at the knee. This may save his life, but if the leg is left on it will decompose and cause death.

The patient will not consent to the operation and his friends - there are a dozen of them around jabbering all the time - counsel him to look out for the doctors, who, they allege, are yearning for his heart's blood and will kill him for his bones.

They laugh at your reasons and scoff at advice, and as nothing can be done in a hospital against a patient's will, this Italian will have to go where all the good Italians go in a little while. Ignorance and fear will kill him much quicker than the surgeon's knife, intelligently used.

These people are more troublesome than those of any other nationality in a hospital, and they disturb the rest of the other patients. If they had a hospital where the doctors, nurses, knives, cots and medicines were all imported from Italy, there would probably be no trouble....The physician should have complete control of the patient, and have the power to do whatever, in his judgment, is best for him. It is nonsense to allow the caprice of a sick man to interfere with the treatment.” As it now stands the patient rules the physician.

"Italians are the most demonstrative people I ever saw, and their peculiarity is especially prominent when they are showing grief for the dead. Other people may weep and show some excitement, but an Italian, judging from action alone, becomes violently insane at the sight of a dead friend or relative. It is custom among them to tear the flesh from their faces with their finger nails, and the more flesh they get off in a limited time the more grief is shown. They come from the dead with blood streaming down their faces.

 Their grief seems to be exhibited in all its violence only at first, for soon afterward they are Jolly and apparently happy, and allow the city in many oases to bury their dead without further concern.

 I am only speaking about the lowest class of Italians; the wealthy ones I know nothing about and do not know whether they show their grief In the same way or not."

 

IMAGE:

A Scene in the New York Morgue -- Identification of the Unknown Dead, a wood engraving sketched by Stanley Fox and published in Harper's Weekly, July 7, 1866. The city's first morgue opened in 1866 on the grounds of Bellevue Hospital near the East River.

Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Ciell using CommonsHelper.