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Biotech Science

Modern Medicine Might Have Saved Lincoln 281

Posted by Zonk
from the quickly-to-the-delorean dept.
Pcol writes "For the past 13 years the University of Maryland School of Medicine has presented a historical clinicopathological conference where they consider famous historical medical cases such as the death of Alexander the Great and composer Ludwig van Beethoven and provide a modern diagnosis and treatment in each case. This year Dr. Thomas M. Scalea, physician-in-chief for the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center discusses if the world's first center for trauma victims could have improved the outcome had Lincoln's assassination occurred in 2007. 'This could be a recoverable injury, with a reasonable expectation he would survive,' Scalea said, noting that assassin's weapon was relatively impotent compared to the firepower now on the streets today. The modern prognosis predicts that Lincoln might have conceivably recovered enough to return to the White House to complete his second term."
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Modern Medicine Might Have Saved Lincoln

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  • by andy314159pi (787550) on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:44PM (#19183451) Journal
    Besides that Mrs. Lincoln... how was the play?
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@@@gmail...com> on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:44PM (#19183457) Journal

    So, what this article is saying is, "Today's technology better than technology 150 years ago..."

    And, as pointed out in the article, the weapon used then was relatively impotent. Would it not be safe to consider that if the assassination were committed today the assassin likely would have also used updated technology (i.e., something more, ahem, potent)?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by peragrin (659227)
      Like a ricin pellet inside an umbrella, and tap the guy on the leg?

    • by eln (21727) on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:57PM (#19183703) Homepage
      Sure, but the assassin probably wouldn't have been able to get within 30 yards of the President's seats at the theatre either, and probably wouldn't have even been able to get within a block of the theatre without being sent through a couple of metal detectors, patted down, and getting a background check done either. Even then, he probably would have had to have raised a lot of money for the Republican party to get into the theatre itself.

      I think this article is just a pat on the back to the medical research community for how far we've come. Clearly, there is so much different now in terms of security, weaponry available, and etc, that you could never say that Lincoln would have survived now, or even that there would have been a serious attempt on his life. Hell, in Lincoln's day anyone could just walk right up to the White House, knock on the front door, and request an audience. These days, you can't even get close.

      • by jfengel (409917) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:14PM (#19183961) Homepage Journal
        It's kind of astonishing to think that security around the President was so much less then. It's not like they didn't know that people had a gripe against Lincoln. Yeah, nobody had assassinated a President before, but sovereign rulers had been the target of people with grievances before.

        I wonder if they were just naive about security, or if perhaps it was a more genteel time in general.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sexyrexy (793497)
          I think it was a far more civilized time in many respects. For example, I think it's a pretty recent development that a non-trivial bloc of the population would actually cheer for the assassination of President Bush. Now, regardless of whether we agree with his policies, I find that pretty disgusting. I think partisanship and common decency have plunged to new depths just as human rights overall and quality of life have risen to great heights.
          • by jfengel (409917) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:27PM (#19184173) Homepage Journal
            It's kind of ironic, given that Americans had just fought their bloodiest war ever, to call it a more "civilized time".

            It's often said that people were more civil to each other in the past. I'm not certain if it's true, or if it's just rose-colored glasses.
            • by Puff of Logic (895805) on Friday May 18, 2007 @04:07PM (#19184713)

              It's kind of ironic, given that Americans had just fought their bloodiest war ever, to call it a more "civilized time".
              On the contrary, it was the most civil war we ever had.
            • They weren't (Score:5, Informative)

              by Moraelin (679338) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:18AM (#19188841) Journal
              They weren't more civil at any point in time, except in some formal settings. We can probably say that when gentlemen met at a posh club, they weren't calling each other cocksuckers, but then again even today they still don't. Move out of that setting, though, and it wasn't some rose-coloured golden age of being nice.

              For starters, in that same age, they had just fought a war over, you know, _slavery_. People were bought and sold, treated in some cases worse than cattle, and savagely whipped or occasionally executed on a whim. How's that for being nice to one's fellow humans?

              And speaking of that civil war, it saw its share of such colourful characters as Bloody Bill Anderson [wikipedia.org]. The guy was _proud_ of applying terror tactics and executions not only against captured soldiers, but against civillian union sympathisers too.

              Newspapers had not yet discovered that it pays to at least pretend to be impartial and objective. Yeah, I know they still aren't really, but back then they didn't even bother pretending. Lopsided, inflamatory and outright insulting journalism was the order of the day. Mud-slinging and outright libel were just normal political tools.

              And then you should see what they said about other races and people. If you think nowadays' coverage of Iraq was a shame, back then it was orders of magnitude worse. It was for example the age of "white man's burden" and "mission to civilize" theories, where three quarters of the globe (including such civilizations like China or Japan) were presented as worse than Neanderthals, and it was the _burden_ of us poor white guys from the west to go sneer at them and shaft them, as some civilizing mission. And that was actually the _nice_ version.

              It was also the age of such things as train robberies. No, they didn't jump into the train from horseback like in the movies. They just derailed the train, lots of people died, and the survivors got robbed.

              It was the age of driving the natives out of their lands, and the occasional massacre. Custer for example wasn't a gentleman soldier in the war against savages, as the media at the time presented him. He was a guy who massacred whole camps, including a good percentage of the women and children, and held the survivors hostage (again, unarmed women and children) to force the rest of the tribe to accept being pushed into a reservation.

              Etc, etc, etc.

              The past _never_ was as cheerfully rose coloured as naive nostalgia presents it. That goes not only for the 19'th century. The Renaissance wasn't a cheerful age, like ren faires would have you believe, but a shithole that turned the whole european culture morbid and depressive for centuries. The knights in shiny armour weren't ideals of chivalry, but... well, let's just say that one manual for knights advised them to literally beat their wives senseless (as in, literally, until she loses consciousness) to keep them in line, and to break the wife's nose so other men won't find her pretty any more. And that's just one of the many atrocities of that caste. Etc.
          • For example, I think it's a pretty recent development that a non-trivial bloc of the population would actually cheer for the assassination of President Bush. Now, regardless of whether we agree with his policies, I find that pretty disgusting.

            People cheer when murderers get the chair, when Saddam Hussein was hanged, when terrorists get shot or blown up, etc.

            I guess it all depends on how much someone is hated, and whether in their opinion someone's death makes the world a better place.
          • I'm not sure that's true. We've just grown in population exponentially since then, thus increasing the number of horrific maniacs in the world. (If, for example, you could say 1 out of every 1,000,000 persons will commit a heinous crime) On top of that, is it that we have sunk into new lows as a whole, or are we now merely more open about our more base instincts today? I'm sure plenty of Southerners cheered when they heard news of Lincoln's death. Though their voices were probably not heard. How many of the
          • by darkonc (47285)
            I'm not sure that that many Americans would actually cheer Bush's assassination. I can, however, see a large, collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, It's quite possible that that sigh might be short-lived. I'm not at all convinced that 'shure-shot' Cheney would make a much better president than Bush. On the (somewhat) bright side, I doubt that he could be much worse.
          • by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Friday May 18, 2007 @04:14PM (#19184821)
            Almost certainly plenty of people cheered Lincoln's death back then, they just weren't the people who wrote our history books.

            Even today there are people who can make a convincing case that Lincoln was just as crooked and underhanded, if not more so, than Bush.
          • I think partisanship and common decency have plunged to new depths

            Why does partisanship have to have anything to do with one's hatred of someone? I would be pretty pleased if Bush got offed, for completely non-partisan reasons. I mean I don't even live in that so called country. I notice a disturbing trend where people, mostly in the US, misattribute all motivation to partisanship, which in itself appears to be partisan.
          • by Hatta (162192)
            I think it was a far more civilized time in many respects.

            Such as their elegant weapons.
        • by OldeTimeGeek (725417) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:36PM (#19184307)
          He absolutely did have security. The following is excerpted from the White House security review after an airplane landed in the White House grounds in 1994 (the whole report: http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/ustreas/usss/t1pubrp t.html [fas.org]).

          By 1860, the bitter atmosphere arising from the discord between the northern and southern states had greatly increased the danger of political violence. As soon as Abraham Lincoln was chosen to be the Republican candidate for President that year, he began to receive numerous death threats. During the campaign, he was constantly surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards. In at least one instance, one of these bodyguards was Alan Pinkerton, the founder of the celebrated detective agency.

          Lincoln's security detail grew after he assumed the Presidency. He chafed under this protection and worried that it made him appear unmanly, but he ultimately conceded its necessity. Numerous Metropolitan Police were detailed to the Executive Mansion to serve as guards. Because Lincoln did not want the Executive Mansion to take on the characteristics of an armed camp, the guards inside the Mansion (the doormen) dressed in civilian clothes and concealed their firearms. Uniformed, armed sentries were posted at the gates to the grounds and at the doors to the Executive Mansion itself.

          During the Civil War, the military helped protect the Mansion. When the conflict started, soldiers actually camped inside the Executive Mansion until Washington was adequately fortified. Even after the city was deemed secure, military units were often assigned to serve as guards there.

          Troops also frequently accompanied Lincoln during his travels. Indeed, throughout the Civil War, no member of Lincoln's family left the White House grounds unescorted. Thus, they were the first White House occupants to receive extensive personal protection. An armed, plainclothes member of the Metropolitan Police regularly accompanied Mrs. Lincoln on her outings. Moreover, the White House doormen never lost sight of the Lincolns' son Tad, who was considered a target for kidnappers. By 1864, four Metropolitan Policemen were assigned to serve as President Lincoln's personal bodyguards. One of these men, responsible for protecting Lincoln at Ford Theater on the evening of April 14, 1865, was having a drink at a nearby saloon when John Wilkes Booth fatally wounded the President with a shot to the head.

      • by lord_mike (567148) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:16PM (#19184007)
        Lincoln was shot at several times... One time, he was walking around in a park and his hat suddenly flew off... When he picked it up, there was a bullet hole in it.

        His wife was very nervous for his safety, but he refused any bodyguards of any type. When he was inaugurated, he was sneaked into Washington, literally under a cloak. Some local papers got a hold of that story and mocked him for being cowardly. So, he instead was very open and brazen, much to the chagrin of his Mary Todd, who worried herself sick over his safety.

        Her greatest fear became reality that night at the theater.

        Thanks,

        Mike
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Short Circuit (52384) *
        If Lincoln were President today, he'd be very unpopular with the Slashdot crowd. Slavery issues aside, he believed and acted in a manner that strengthened the federal government. He even ordered confedracy sympathizers in Maryland arrested prior to election day so that Maryland, the seat of power for the Federal government, wouldn't secede.

        In other words, he ran what might have been the most oppressive federal government since the Alien and Sedition acts of World War I, entirely contrary to the spirit of
        • by shark72 (702619)

          "If Lincoln were President today, he'd be very unpopular with the Slashdot crowd. Slavery issues aside, he believed and acted in a manner that strengthened the federal government. He even ordered confedracy sympathizers in Maryland arrested prior to election day so that Maryland, the seat of power for the Federal government, wouldn't secede."

          Plus, there's the personal grooming issue. I think the relevant phrase on Slashdot would be "goatee considered harmful."

        • by eln (21727)
          You're saying nobody today would have made a serious attempt on his life?

          What I meant by that is that security might have been so tight around him that no one would be able to get close enough to make a serious attempt at his life, not that there wouldn't be people who wanted to do so. George W. Bush is not very well liked these days, and there are probably plenty of people who want to kill him, but to date no serious attempt has been made. Maybe this is because nobody wants to see Cheney sitting in the O
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:08PM (#19183885)
      If this happened today Lincoln would have been prescribed prozac at 15, lightened up, and become a full-time circus clown. Mary Todd, would just be called Todd after the gender-reassignment and Booth would have made it in Hollywood and become another eccentric scientologist and could take his aggression out of people who leave the church. Happy Endings for all!
    • by ookabooka (731013)
      And, as pointed out in the article, the weapon used then was relatively impotent. Would it not be safe to consider that if the assassination were committed today the assassin likely would have also used updated technology (i.e., something more, ahem, potent)?

      Ok, I think you're missing the point. Ever think about Apollo 13 and wish you could go back in time with your PDA give it to NASA because it could have replaced the on board computer (using an emulator running under Java while you were playing chess a
    • by Bonker (243350)
      The ultimate point of these conferences is not to propose sci-fi 'what if' scenarios. Nor is it an indictment of archaic medical procedure. Instead, they're more to improve the current body of medical knowledge by applying modern science to archaic, but well-documented cases.

      Leale, Lincoln's surgeon, made a number of choices on how to treat his patient given the best science of the time. These included heating Lincoln's body with hot water bottles to try to prevent shock and removing the from his brain with
    • by linguizic (806996)
      I'm waiting for an article to come out saying that the report showing that Lincoln was shot by one gun is false.
  • Yeah... but what if he'd been shot with a modern gun?
    • by The_Rook (136658)
      best comparison might be to when ronald reagan was shot.

  • Yes, if the medical technologies and treatments we have today were developed earlier they could have saved people who are now dead. Isn't that obvious??!
  • similar studies? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by emc (19333) on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:46PM (#19183487)
    do they have similar presentations at conferences, like how the civil war would have ended if the south had stealth bombers... and how Hannibal would have done if he had a fleet of Hummers with 50cal BMGs?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by greenguy (162630)
      What if Frodo had had a spaceship with an Improbability Drive?
    • I remember an early SNL episode that had Kirk Douglas in a skit called "What if Spartacus Had a Piper Cub?"
    • by Jonathan_S (25407)

      do they have similar presentations at conferences, like how the civil war would have ended if the south had stealth bombers... and how Hannibal would have done if he had a fleet of Hummers with 50cal BMGs?

      Well, first thing the Hummers would run out of fuel...

      OTOH he did get Eliphants across the alps, I guess he could get Hummers into Italy. (Tow them behind the eliphant if nothing else). Not sure why you'd bother. The 50cal BMG would certainly kill plenty of Romans, while the ammo lasted.

      But Hannibal's p

    • by Lars T. (470328)

      do they have similar presentations at conferences, like how the civil war would have ended if the south had stealth bombers... and how Hannibal would have done if he had a fleet of Hummers with 50cal BMGs?
      Then he would have never passed the alps, for Hummers suck in the mountains.
    • by Nimey (114278)
      Harry Turtledove wrote a book (Guns of the South) that had Afrikaners go back in time and give the Confederacy AK-47s.

      No, I refuse to read it.
  • Ba-dum-bum (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bobb Sledd (307434) on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:46PM (#19183495) Homepage
    ...Is that because you don't need a brain to be president?

    Of course... it could also be said that "modern security could have prevented the weapon being anywhere near the president in the first place."

  • Worthless. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <`Satanicpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:48PM (#19183533) Journal
    And future medicine might have brought him back from the dead, able to play piano and fly! Or maybe not. No medicine might have saved George Washington, instead of the leeches.

    Such pointless speculation. Yes, obviously better medical care could have saved a lot of people. How about "Modern Medicine Could Have Prevented Black Plague!" Maybe, "85% of amputations during the civil war wouldn't have occurred with modern surgery!" Seriously, I can keep this up all day...
    • Re:Worthless. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:52PM (#19183621) Journal
      I think the point of the study wasn't that modern medicine could have saved him, it's how it could have. Anyone could come along and say, "oh yeah, modern medicine would have saved him." It takes someone with more experience than the peanut gallery here on Slashdot to explain how.
      • Sure, I read it, but I still wasn't impressed. It was all very speculative. I'd be much more interested in a case study where the doctors actually worked on someone, where they discuss what did and did not go according to plan.

        This is just a little splash mongering, trying to drum up some page views by applying modern medicine to historic injuries, without any knowledge of complications that we are now able to recognize, which doctors of the time period were not able to recognize.
    • No medicine might have saved George Washington, instead of the leeches.

      The deliberate blood draining definitely killed any chance he would've had to recover... but important to note that there *was* medicine available back then that could've probably gone a long way towards healing his epiglotitis/throat infection... golden seal root was well-known by Native Americans, as well as colonial folk medicine in the 1700-1800's, to have healing powers for infections. And indeed modern science has shown it to have
    • Abraham Lincoln, president. A man barely alive.
      Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world's first bionic man. President Lincoln will be that man. Better than he was before. Better...stronger...faster.
      *Doo doo dee dahhhhh*

      The only catch is that all of his implants are steam powered.
    • by CrazyTalk (662055)
      Its called using your imagination. Sometimes that can be fun.
  • In other news, life expectancy is no longer 50, bloodletting is no longer a recommended medical treatment, and witches do, in fact, sink when tied to large stones and thrown into water.

    Anyone get the impression that calling a gun used in an assassination 150 years ago impotent compared to today's weapons is just another salvo launched from the anti-gun crowd?
    • In other news, life expectancy is no longer 50, bloodletting is no longer a recommended medical treatment, and witches do, in fact, sink when tied to large stones and thrown into water.

      Interestingly enough leeches today are a recommended treatment for amputees.
  • by clem (5683) on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:49PM (#19183567) Homepage
    If only cryogenic resurrection centers had existed at that time we might still have Lincoln with us today.
  • Because I just saw him on TV with a gopher
  • by nexuspal (720736) on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:59PM (#19183737)
    Lincoln was shot with a .41 derringer, possibly using a rimfire cartridge filled with black power link [wikipedia.org]
    It consisted of a 130 grain lead bullet propelled at 425 ft/second and had a total energy of right around 52 ft. lbs.

    Compare that to a modern day 40 S&W cartridge (used by most police today), that sends a 135 grain modern day Jacketed Hollow Point expanding bullet at a velocity of 1200 ft/second producing around 432 ft. lbs. of energy out of a 4 inch barrel (slight loss of velocity for a shorter barrel). This would have gone clean through the head, leaving an approximately .8 inch diameter hole as opposed to the .41 inch hole left by the derringer that did not penetrate
    link [wikipedia.org]

    He most likely would not have survived if this happened in the modern day.
    • by djh101010 (656795) *

      Lincoln was shot with a .41 derringer, possibly using a rimfire cartridge filled with black power link [wikipedia.org]
      It consisted of a 130 grain lead bullet propelled at 425 ft/second and had a total energy of right around 52 ft. lbs.

      Everything I've seen shows he was shot with a .44 derringer, not a .41 derringer. Significant difference. Also, was it a cartridge gun or a muzzleloader? I've seen it, I just don't remember. If it's a muzzleloader then it's impossible for us to know what the ME was of that particular shot; someone trying to kill the President probably didn't follow the manufacturer's safe loading guidelines. I'm trying to find a link to the pics of the exact gun but they're blocked from where I'm at right now...

  • What would happen today is that the bullet would be deflected by Chuck Norris' beard...Lincoln's head would explode out of shear amazement.
  • by Cytlid (95255)
    WTF is this? A cross between Doogie Houser and a LARP? What do they call it, "Fantasy Medicine"?
  • by orclevegam (940336) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:02PM (#19183775) Journal

    In other news, a recent study shows that using modern materials as well as safety and engineering best practices might have prevented the Titanic disaster.

    Seriously, it's been said many times on here already, but, how is this news?

  • OT, but a lot more interesting, IMHO...

    I'm currently reading a fantastic biography of Lincoln & several members of his cabinet, called Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln [amazon.com]

    I've never found politics particularly interesting, but Doris Kearns Goodwin really brings it to life.

  • Check this video [youtube.com] for the details of a fascinating technology of tommorow, that could save Jesus.
  • by sd_diamond (839492) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:05PM (#19183825) Homepage

    This year Dr. Thomas M. Scalea, physician-in-chief for the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center discusses if the world's first center for trauma victims could have improved the outcome had Lincoln's assassination occurred in 2007

    They failed to take into account how frail and weak a Lincoln would be at the age of 198. Surely this would offset most of the benefits of modern medicine.

    Honestly, guys, do I have to do all of your thinking for you?

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:06PM (#19183843)
    An assassin today wouldn't use an outdated gun. He'd use an automatic, if available (Uzis come to mind) and spray his target. Or he would use a weapon with greater impact.

    Of course it's easy to say today all those people who were murdered could have been saved with modern medicine. I'm quite aware that assassins are aware of this and use methods that prove to be fatal compared to the potential of their adversaries, the medics trying to save the life of the target.

    Think of Caesar. Back then a stab anywhere in the abdomen was pretty much a surefire way to kill. Today you might have to hit your mark, and even then...

    Think of all those people who were poisoned. How many would go to a doc today and he'd find out immediately and before it's too late that they are poisoned and what the antidote would be? Would an assassin use the same poison? No, he'd pick a killing method that can't be countered. Just like they did back then.

    So, generally, I wouldn't read too much into this. Yes, they could have been saved by modern medicine if someone was stupid enough to try to kill them in an old fashion way.
    • by prelelat (201821)
      I'm pretty sure the point of the artical was to say how far we have come in the 100+ years in regards to medical treatment. The point is that someone in this day and age could get life saving treatment that would save your life appose to when linkin was shot.
  • > if the world's first center for trauma victims could have improved the outcome had Lincoln's assassination occurred in 2007.

    Funny thing to attempt. Sounds like a great mafia tagline: "Improving the outcome of assassinations since 1865!"
  • ...he might have married Joshua Speed instead of Mary Todd. And, as a result, he might have been unelectable in 1860 or 2008. And might not have had a political career. And might not have been assassinated.

    But if HIV had been available, he might have gotten AIDS.

    But if acyclovir had been available, he might not have died from it.

    But if nuclear weapons had been available, the Civil War might have turned into a nuclear holocaust and he might had died from that.

    But if global warming had been available, the Uni
  • So much for that plan of getting Hillary Clinton to go to the theater if she gets elected in 2008! ;-)
  • Life as we know it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Avatar8 (748465) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:39PM (#19184355)
    Had Lincoln been saved, the United States and probably the world would not be recognizable.

    If I recall history correctly, it was not Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation nor even the defeat of the Confederate States in the Civil War that brought our country together. Lincoln's death had a major impact on the people as a whole. Reunification was cemented by it. The south was embarrassed by Boothe's action and rebellious groups ceased their activities.

    Lincoln was a visionary and a very ethical man according to the history books. Had he lived, the country likely would have remained divided amongst the peoples, mentally and spiritually. I doubt our country would have unified, worked together and developed as we have. Very possibly Japan and Russia would have ended up as the only super powers in the 30's and 40's and that would leave us in a fascist/socialist/communist world.

    SEE what havoc modern medicine can wreak?

    Besides, if Lincoln were alive today he'd be appalled at the current legal, political and governmental systems we have in place. No room for ethics whatsoever. He has more value on the penny and the $5 bill. Sad really.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It was really the Spanish-American war that brought the country back together--the South bitterly hated the North even after the war, especially when the North did "reconstruction", their failed military occupation of the South. It wasn't until a hundred years later that the South finally quit segregation and stopped lynching Negroes. Rebellious groups continued their activities for decades--haven't you heard of the Ku Klux Klan? Finally, Lincoln was "a visionary and a very ethical man" according to the his
  • Lincolin might still be alive today?

    No... Probably not.

  • It's too bad that we didn't freeze him.

    Oh well, we already know that they get his head back by the year 3000. It sits in the Hall of Presidents, in the head museum.
  • Even such a relatively puny weapon would cause severe problems if lincoln were injured with it today, as he would be nearly 200 years old and this would greatly complicate matters.
  • I don't think the medicine would have saved him. He would have died because of aging by now.

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