Custodians and Caregivers
This chapter reveals a flawed healer–patient relationship within the institutional life of the San Francisco pesthouse. Constant fear of contagion, the gruesome panorama of continuing suffering and death, and therapeutic frustrations had all taken their toll on doctors and nurses. Newspaper stories exposed acts of professional avoidance, hostility and cruelty, boredom and depression, even alcoholism and occasional suicide. The establishment was plagued with organizational deficiencies and a dearth of caregiving, yet because of its geographical remoteness, the San Francisco pesthouse drew little scrutiny from the authorities and public at large. Thus, the chapter explores the various reasons accounting for the cases of neglect as well as the various shortcomings of the San Francisco medical establishment as a whole.
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