Crockett, William

Crockett, William            1881 February 12th

Effects of Syrup of Buckthorn

An inquiry was held at the Council Chamber, yesterday afternoon, by Mr George Smith, city coroner, and a jury, of whom Mr Feltham was foreman, into the circumstances attending the death of a little child, named William Crockett, the son of Henry and Elizabeth Crockett, of 18, Green-Croft-street.

The evidence was of a painful nature. The child was but five months old, and about a fortnight since was vaccinated by Dr Gordon. Never a healthy child, the irritation resulting from the operation induced increased symptoms. On Wednesday night, apparently hoping to ease it, the mother procured a penny-worth of syrup of buckthorn, and, following a custom in her own family, and, indeed, among the lower classes, administered, on Thursday morning, at about eleven, to the child a little less than a tea-spoonful, her mother-in-law holding the child the while.

An hour had scarcely elapsed, before the child appeared unwell. It becoming worse – clenching its hands and contracting its feet – at half-past six the mother proceeded to Dr Gordon, and, describing the symptoms, obtained some medicine. The medicine restrained the diarrhoea, but at a quarter to four in the morning the child expired, evidently, as Dr Gordon stated, from the exhaustion from the excessive purgation. Syrup of buckthorn, Dr Gordon added, was a medicine doctors never prescribed. It was, indeed, sufficiently strong to be administered to animals, but it was very frequently used by the poorer classes as an aperient for children instead of syrup of rhubarb. A tea-spoonful of the liquid, he should certainly think, was a large dose; but buckthorn, altogether, was decidedly an improper medicine to be given to children. Syrup was a mild preparation of buckthorn, but, at the same time, its effects could not always be calculated upon.

The jury believed the syrup was given with the best intention, and, accordingly, returned a verdict of “Death from Natural Causes.”


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