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Most Disturbing & Barbaric Medical Treatments In History

September 26, 2018 0 Comments

Sometimes visiting a Doctor can lead to uncomfortable situations. We have compiled a list of 5 disturbing medical treatments from history that will give GPs the shivers. 

The negative thoughts are usually pushed out of your mind. After all, Doctors have gone through to years of education and spend thousands of dollars to get where they are Today. If you can’t trust them about your health, who can you trust? 

Here’s the thing though, doctors have a history of not knowing what the hell they’re doing.

History is filled with stories of horror and barbaric medical treatments. In other words, if you’re looking to justify your medical phobia so you can rationalize not getting that ever-growing lump on your neck checked out, you’re in the right place.

Below you find our TOP 5 pick of the Most Disturbing and Barbaric Medical Treatments in History.

Insulin Shock Therapy



The disturbingly named insulin coma therapy, or insulin shock therapy, was a type of psychiatric treatment widely used in hospitals in the 1930s through the 1950s. It involved repeatedly administering large doses of insulin to patients, with the aim of causing daily comas over a course of several weeks.

Predominantly used to treat schizophrenia, the treatment was introduced to the medical community in 1933 by the Austrian-born psychiatrist Manfred Sakel. During a standard length of treatment, injections of insulin were given six days a week for around two months, although courses lasting up to two years have been recorded.

The decline of the treatment was sharp. It was heavily criticized as early as 1953 when the British psychiatrist Harold Bourne wrote of “the insulin myth,” claiming that the treatment had no effect on schizophrenia at all. By the end of the 1950s, the therapy had fallen out of favour, mostly because of the length of time it took and the nursing supervision it required.

However, it has been recorded as continuing until as late as the 1970s in China and the former Soviet Union.




Bloodletting is one of the oldest medical practices and one that, surprisingly, continued into the 20th century. It has its basis in the classical world of Hippocrates and the ancient Greeks and their belief in the four “humors”: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. It was their theory that each of the humors needed to be in balance for a person to experience optimal health.

If someone was ill, went the thinking, they probably had an excess of one the elements, hence the need for a technique such as bloodletting.

This strange practice went on into modern times and was even supported by Sir William Osler in the 1923 edition of his textbook The Principles and Practice of Medicine. Today, it has been established beyond all reasonable doubt that bloodletting does far more harm than good.

However, modern bloodletting (or phlebotomy) is very occasionally used as a treatment in a few diseases, including hemochromatosis and polycythemia.

Treating Hemorrhoids With Hot Irons


Treating Hemorrhoids With Hot Irons

It was once believed that if a person did not pray to St. Fiacre (the “protector against hemorrhoids”) they would suffer from, you guessed it, hemorrhoids.

If you were one of those unlucky fellows, you’d be sent off to the monks—who would put a red-hot iron up your anus.

Nasty, but the less painful alternative was equally less effective: they’d send you to go and sit on St. Fiacre’s famous rock, the spot where the seventh-century Irish monk was miraculously cured of his hemorrhoids. It was for this reason that throughout the Middle Ages, hemorrhoids were called “Saint Fiacre’s illness.”

By the 12th century, things had changed. Jewish physician Moses Maimonides wrote a seven-chapter treatise on hemorrhoids calling into question the contemporary state of treatment. He prescribed a far simpler method: a good soak in a bath.

Trepanning – Drilling Holes Into Your Skull


Trepanning - Drilling Holes Into Your Skull


Ever feel like your head hurts so badly it’s going to explode? While that’s entirely unlikely, there was a time when doctors would literally drill a hole into your skull to alleviate severe cranial pressure. Archaeological evidence suggests many people survived the procedure.

Trepanning is a surgical procedure that involves the drilling or boring of a hole into the human skull. This painful hole exposes the dura mater, an outer membrane of the brain, which physicians use to treat an array of different health problems.

Doctors used this practice in the Middle Ages to treat illnesses like epilepsy, migraines, and a variety of mental disorders. If you were suffering from depression, a little hole to the head was in order. Unfortunately, the hole to the head commonly exposed the brain to airborne germs, and it often proved fatal for patients.

Heroin for use in children suffering from coughs


Heroin for use in children suffering from coughs

It’s not news that Bayer, the venerable German drug company, made its first fortunes in the late 1890s when it commercialized both aspirin and heroin as cough, cold and pain remedies. Many people have seen the sepia images of vintage Bayer’s “Heroin” brand medicine bottles.

But it’s less widely known that Bayer promoted heroin for use in children suffering from coughs, colds and “irritation” as late as 1912, according to an anti-Bayer watchdog group. (See the ads below.)

That was years after reports first began to surface in 1899 that patients were developing a “tolerance” for Heroin, and that addicts in the U.S. were clamoring for more, according to this history of the drug.

The children’s campaign ran in Spanish newspapers, according to the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, a longtime company gadfly, which unearthed the forgotten images two days ago. One ad, urging the use of “Heroina” to treat bronchitis in kids, shows two unattended children reaching for a bottle of the opiate across a kitchen table. Another shows a mum spoon feeding it to her sickly little girl. “La tos desaparece,” the ad says — “the cough disappears”:

Heroin was restricted to prescription-only use in the U.S. in 1914 and eventually banned by the nascent FDA altogether in 1924, except under very strict medical conditions.

Sure, it’s a blast from the past that says nothing about Bayer’s corporate culture today. But their sudden reappearance is a chilling reminder of what life was like in the early 20th Century when companies were permitted to sell anything to anyone, no matter how dangerous, regardless of the consequences.


Luckily at Gorilla Jobs, we source Doctors who are up to date with current Medicine.

We encourage you to try our service by contacting one of our consultants, browsing our Doctor jobs or chatting with our support team.