6 Horrible Ways People Died Before Modern Medicine Was Invented
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6 Horrible Ways People Died Before Modern Medicine Was Invented

Avatar of Sara Araujo

By: Sara Araujo

November 21, 2017

What's on 6 Horrible Ways People Died Before Modern Medicine Was Invented
Avatar of Sara Araujo

By: Sara Araujo

November 21, 2017

Prior to the miracles of modern medicine, people feared for their life a lot more often.

“I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion. But I will keep the purity and holiness of both my life and my art. I will not use the knife, not even, verily, on sufferers from stone, but I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein...
Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I transgress it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.”

This excerpt from the Hippocratic oath reveals that being a doctor is probably one of the most honorable professions out there. Through this oath, they swear to protect life, do no harm, and prevent suffering. We sure know that these people do anything it takes to keep us healthy. But they are as human as we are so their super power to heal comes to a limit. Sometimes sickness and injuries prevail, and that’s why scientists are constantly doing exhaustive research to win this fight.

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Fortunately, technology has opened a handful of possibilities and solutions, but it hasn’t always been like this. Before modern medicine did its glorious appearance, people got sick more frequently and died of a strange variety of diseases and accidents. Among the popular (and not so popular) ways of dying back in the day, it is safe to say that these are, by far, some of the worst:


Responsible for approximately 300 million to 500 million deaths during the twentieth century alone, smallpox has been one of humanity's most merciless illnesses. The virus attacks skin cells, which leads to characteristic bumps that form all over the body. As a matter of fact, the smallpox vaccine was the first successful vaccine to be developed. To this day, it remains the only virus that afflicted humans that has been completely eradicated. The last known case of the disease occurred in 1977.


Commonly known as “nerviosism,” neurasthenia was first diagnosed in the late nineteenth century. At that time, the condition was explained as a result of exhaustion of the central nervous system's energy reserves. Physicians associated neurasthenia with the stresses of urbanization and with stress suffered as a result of the increasingly competitive business environment. Even though it has disappeared, its traces remain recognizable in other affections from the past century.

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Rinderpest is essentially the livestock equivalent of the measles virus. Though it is not a danger to humans, the fact that it affects cattle and other ruminants has made this virus a major threat to humanity because of our reliance on farm animals. After a vaccine was developed, the last confirmed case of the disease was in 2001, but it was until 2011 that it was officially deemed eradicated.

Black Death

The Black Death was an epidemic of the bubonic plague, a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia Pestis that circulates among wild rodents. The disastrous mortal disease spread across Europe between 1346 and 1353, resulting in one of the most devastating pandemics in human history with an estimated of 75 to 200 deaths in Eurasia.

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This is a serious bacterial infection that usually affects the respiratory system, specially the nose and throat. Diphtheria typically causes a sore throat, fever, swollen glands and weakness. Yet the hallmark sign is a sheet of thick, gray material covering the back of your throat, which can cause you to struggle for breath. Sadly, this illness hasn’t been eradicated yet. When treatment is needed, patients with severe cases are taken to intensive care units and given a diphtheria antitoxin.


An infectious disease that generally affects the lungs, Tuberculosis is spread through the air when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze. Classic symptoms include chronic cough with blood, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. More than 90% of all children are vaccinated from this disease. However, the immunity decreases after ten years.

In point of fact, we have to be truly grateful for modern medicine. Sure, nowadays we suffer from many other affections that didn’t exist. But thanks to professional researchers and diagnosticians, we are closer every day to fully understand these affections and have a better and longer life.


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