Musselwhite, Gertrude

Musselwhite, Gertrude         1919 June 6th

Sequel to Operation

In order to undergo an operation to her arm, which had been injured in a motor car accident, Mrs Gertrude Musselwhite of Milford Street, was given an anaesthetic at the Infirmary on Saturday. She was, apparently, physically incapable of recovering from the effects of it, and her death ensued. She was the landlady at the Hop Brewery Tap, and was 40 years of age. An inquest was held by the City Coroner (Mr A M Wilson) at the Salisbury Infirmary on Tuesday evening, Mr F H Trethowan representing the family of Mrs Musselwhite, and Mr A J Atkins appeared for the owner of the car.

Linda Whitlock, of West Moors, said Mrs Musselwhite was her sister. She called at the Infirmary on Saturday because her sister was there after an accident, but she was fairly cheerful and said she was going under an anaesthetic that morning at 11 o’clock to have her arm reset. Witness promised to call again, but when she did so later in the day her sister was dead.

Duncan Edward Neale, a taxi-cab driver, of 39, Brown Street, said that on Wednesday, May 28th, he was engaged by Mrs Musselwhite and another lady to drive to Amesbury and Rollestone, and back to Salisbury by the Devizes Road. Both ladies stayed for a while with friends at Rollestone. He started on the return journey at about half-past four, and when he reached the cross-roads which led to Stonehenge, Winterbourne Stoke and Amesbury, a car suddenly appeared from the direction of Winterbourne Stoke and hit his car on the off-side at the rear, and turned it right round, throwing out Mrs Musselwhite and her friend. He went to Mrs Musselwhite, who was lying in the road bleeding from the forehead and complaining of a broken wrist. The other lady was not hurt very much, only shaken up. An officer and a cyclist came up afterwards and rendered assistance, the officer going on to Lake Down and sending back a nurse and an ambulance. Both were taken to Fargo Hospital. The turning which led to Winterbourne Stoke was a “blind corner.” There was a high hedge of thick gorse, and it was impossible to see what was coming either way. He could not give the pace of the other car because the accident happened so quickly.

Dorothy Isabel Dobbin, House Surgeon of the Infirmary, said Mrs Musselwhite was admitted on Wednesday. She had a fracture of the lower end of the right radius and abrasions of the right wrist and face. The fracture was x-rayed and it was decided to reduce it under an anaesthetic. This was done on Saturday. The patient was given a mixture of chloroform and ether for the first few minutes, and then ether alone, by the open method. The operation was performed by Dr Fison. The patient took the anaesthetic well and the pulse and respiration were good all the time. The operation was completed and the anaesthetic had been stopped about five minutes when the collapse suddenly occurred. Respiration and pulse suddenly failed to act, and artificial respiration and the usual methods of stimulation had no effect. A post-mortem examination was carried out at the Coroner’s request. It was found that the heart mussles were flabby and thin and showed signs of degeneration, and in her opinion the cause of death was heart failure due to the degenerated condition of the heart. The operation was quite a simple one but could not have been done properly without an anaesthetic, and the patient was most anxious to have one. Witness had given about 500 anaesthetics.

The Coroner, who conducted the inquest without a jury, brought in a verdict that Mrs Musselwhite died from natural causes – heart failure following administration of an anaesthetic of chloroform and ether, which was properly administered.

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