Tube Feeding

Reporter on Force-Feeding, 1914

Reporter on Force-Feeding, 1914

Food mattered to patients, of course; eating was often one of the few pleasures of the day. Whether or not the food was palatable, patients who ate willingly were far better off than those who refused to take in an adequate amount of food. Below is a shortened description of involuntary feeding, from an article that appeared in an 1872 issue of The British Medical Journal:

An attendant kneels at the head of the bedstead, with a knee on each side of the patient’s head. Two other attendants pass a sheet over the patient and draw it tightly. Each one kneels on the sheet to keep it in place, then holds one of the patient’s arms. After this immobilization, the physician opens the patient’s mouth with a screw-gag,  inserts about 18 inches of tube down the patient’s esophagus, then injects food into the tube with a stomach pump.

Antique Screw-Gag

Antique Screw-Gag

Force-feeding a Suffragette

Force-feeding a Suffragette

This article described another method in which the physician could forgo the stomach pump, and instead, simply pour the food into a funnel that emptied into the tube. The force of gravity would take the food to the stomach.

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