Doctors, Dentists and Death in new Worthing book

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A NEW book by a Worthing historian and author reveals the shocking history of health care in the town.

Barrie Keech, in his new book called Doctors, Dentists and Death, tells the story of Dr Charles Kelly, who is best remembered for his role in the Worthing typhoid epidemic of 1893.

The book tells the shocking history of health care from the 1850s onwards. Barrie draws on oral history interviews, old newspapers and Victorian and Edwardian health reports kept at Worthing Library – reports written by Dr Kelly himself.

Barrie’s conclusion is that Kelly, ignoring the typhoid epidemic, did more than anyone to champion the cause of public health in West Sussex, particularly among the poor.

Barrie said: “He had a wonderful, free-flowing style to his reports that certainly gives them interest.”

The research for Barrie’s book also revealed a large number of children died from “teething” – the Broadwater Burial Register gives this as the cause of death for three children in one year alone.

He said: “There were firmly held views, both on the part of the medical profession and the public, that babies gums should be lanced at teething time and fairly often, too.

“The subsequent infection frequently proved fatal.”

Barrie also revealed the barbaric treatments which mental patients could be subjected to, including a therapy that closely resembled the water-boarding technique recently used against terrorist suspects by the CIA.

The book is on sale at Worthing Library, in Richmond Road, Worthing Museum, in Chapel Road, and Waterstones in Montague Street.