The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an evidence-based religion
George Washington died in 1799 of an upper respiratory infection, which he most probably would have survived if not for three doctors sending him into hypovolemic shock by draining out half of his blood volume. “Therapeutic” bloodletting was a staple procedure in western medicine at the time, and the practice can be traced back to at least the 5th century BC. Classical Greek medical practitioners, including Hippocrates and his colleagues, reasoned that removing excess blood from the body was a way of balancing the four humors. They even pointed to the female menstrual cycle as a natural example of how the body tries to maintain this balance. This reasoning was more philosophical than scientific, but at the time it seemed reasonable and even plausible. Washington himself was a firm believer in the practice (until it killed him).
Modern people tend to be shocked at the manifest ignorance of bloodletting because we know more about the physiology of the human body than they did back then. At the time this practice became entrenched in western medicine people didn’t understand that blood circulated through the body, and were unaware that arteries connected to veins via capillaries. They thought that blood was produced in various organs and then consumed in others. As medicine gradually began to understand and use the tools of experimental science through the 19th and 20th centuries, and as evidence mounted that bloodletting actually harms patients, the practice was gradually extinguished in western medicine. (Although there are a few rare diseases like hemochromatosis where therapeutic phlebotomy is still employed, and bloodletting is still used in some alternative medicine systems.) Continue reading