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Bloody Waste

George Washington died in 1799 after losing about two and a half litres of blood (half the amount possessed by an average human).

How had Washington been injured? He hadn't. He was deliberately bled by three successive doctors -- as a treatment for a sore throat.

["The prevailing conception of illness was that the sick were contaminated by some toxin or contagion or an excess of one humor or another... [and] that these conditions could be improved by opening a vein and letting the sickness run out: bloodletting, the practice was called. Once the toxins were gone, the patient immediately felt different, and often better. As anyone who has given blood can tell you, losing a pint or two can make you feel transported, transformed. Intuitively, it was satisfying to doctors that the procedure left the patient feeling drained -- physically, emotionally and into the sink."]

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