My current book of choice is Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen. You can check out the site here: http://www.starvationheights.com/. I’m about half way through and it’s proving to be an interesting read. It’s astounding really the things people believed in regards to health and some of the ridiculous things that doctors were allowed to get away with until too many people died from these so-called treatments. In this book Linda Burfield Hazzard’s treatment is starvation – a “fasting cure” and this story is about two of her more wealthy and well-known patients who were heiresses to a very large fortune, Clare and Dora Williamson – one of which died and the other barely survived. Patients of Hazzard’s treatment were kept on diets of a cup or two of tomato broth a day and little else for upwards of 45 days to 100 days until they were literally skin and bones and most could barely walk. This picture is of Dora who was 60 pounds when a family friend finally rescued her from the sanitarium.
Along with starving the patients, they were given daily enemas – sometimes lasting for hours and extremely painful and doing a strange osteopathic massage that involved roughly thumping her fists against patients’ heads, stomachs and backs.
Who can say what led people to actually go and submit themselves to this treatment, but once they committed themselves, they were at the hands of Hazzard and her husband. Maybe like the Williamson sisters they were naive and overly trusting and hypocondriacs willing to try anything and believing almost anything – most giving the Hazzard’s money and control of their finances – misguided and taken advantage of while delirious with hunger.
Perhaps even more amazing is that after starving at least a dozen people to death with her treatment, Hazzard eventually died herself from starvation from her own cure. She actually believed in her treatment. she even performed autopsies on patients who had died and never put two and two together that their organs were shruken because of the starvation and that they didn’t die because the organs were bad, which is what she believed.