Dr Timothy Killeen.
Licenciate of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, 1885.
Licenciate of the Kings and Queens College of Physicians, Ireland, 1886.
One statement concerning the body of Martha Tabram, reputed to have been given by Dr Killeen, which has been the source of much criticism, concerned the opinion that Tabram had never given birth. This statement was published in the East London Advertiser, Aug. 25, 1888.
"Dr. Keeling [sic] stated that he had made the most careful examination, and he could find no trace of the woman having had any children".
The state of medical knowledge in 19th century Britain, though very advanced for it's time, should not be compared with today.
Here is a quote from a principal medical publication, The Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine, published 1834.
I feel it necessary to draw attention to one entry by William P. Montgomery M.D. Fellow and Professor of Midwifery to the King and Queens College of Physicians, Ireland.
This paragraph concerns the difficulty that can be found when looking for both internal and external physical evidence of a woman having given birth.
".....But the question of most practical importance is this, - supposing a woman to have been a mother, does there remain any mark or sign by which the fact of delivery can at any future period be established ?
The reply to this question which experience warrants appears to be, that in a very great majority of cases we should be totally unable to discover any such certain indication of a former delivery ; for although in some instances there are to be found appearances which point strongly to a probability of such an occurance having taken place, they are very seldom indeed such as ought to be considered decisive of the question ; while in other cases where parturition has occured repeatedly, not one of the signs usually insisted on is found to have continued permanent.
We very lately examined a patient who had born five children and nursed three of them, the youngest being now five years old ; the breasts were small, but neither flacid nor pendulous ; the nipples short, with not the least shade of brown colour in the areolae, which exhibited only the delicate rose colour so often observed on that part of the virgin breast ; there were neither lines nor spots of any kind on the abdomen ; the os uteri was small and natural ; the vagina contracted, and the fourchette perfectly entire. It should be mentioned that this lady never carried her children beyond the end of the eighth month."
The Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine, William P Montgomery, 1834. pp. 503-4.
Dr. Killeen had not displayed any less capability than medical knowledge of the time permitted.
Interesting find, Jon. But is this a continuation of another thread that I missed? Who is questioning Killeen's statement in the Advertiser (assuming, as always, that the newspaper reported it correctly) that Martha had never given birth? Does anything actually hinge on that?
Killeen was just a GP. I'm sure he did the best he could under the circumstances. And is a medical book, written by Montgomery more than half a century before the events that interest us, really of much help?
I've always rather admired the various doctors in this case, including Killeen, for answering the call of the police in the middle of the night. Me, I would have stayed in bed.
There's some testimony from Killeen from another case that's included among records from the North East Middlesex coroner's district held at the LMA (2nd box). I thought I'd put it up if it's of interest. This inquest was held on the body of a newborn infant found dead in Spitalfields, October 1888.
From the initial investigation by the coroner's officer, B. Beavis, for a warrant to hold an inquest:
Mysterious death. The mother of Decd. (unmarried) went to bed about 11 pm on Tuesday 9 Oct. the person with whom she lived (inserted ‘Mrs. Green’) had then no reason to suppose that she was enceinte. About 7 a m on Wednesday 10th. Inst., Mrs. Green went into the bed room + found that she had given birth to decd – who was dead. Dr. Killeen asks for a Post Mortem examination to ascertain whether dead was born alive [see his letter] (lma/mj/spc/ne296a, from form for request for a warrant for an inquest by B. Beavis, coroner’s officer).
No letter is preserved in the record, but Killeen's testimony is included:
Timothy Robert Killeen, on his oath says I reside at 68 Brick Lane I am LRC.PI + [illegible]. I was called on Wednesday 10th October to 16 Church Street Spitalfields and found that Dinah Israel a Single Woman had during the night given birth to a female child apparently full formed and well developed. The child was dead and unattended to. Cord and [illegible] with Placenta attached.
External appearance – No marks of violence
Skin – Livid
Fingers were lightly closed on palms of the hands
I have since by your order made a Post Mortem examination on the 11th Inst and I find
Brain Membranes. Congested. with the Sinuses full
of dark blood
Brain Substance. Healthy
Lungs & Pleura Healthy and no fluid in Cavity
Lungs + Heart attached Float in water
Lungs without Heart Float in water
Liver - Very large and full of dark blood and there was still dark blood in the portion of Cord which would become the obliterative remains of the umbilical cord
In my opinion and to the best of my belief death was due to want of proper attendance at birth
The Child was born alive
The Length was the ordinary one and the weight was above the ordinary
The Child was covered with Dust. it did not seem to me the dust that would come from the ceiling. A portion of the Ceiling was broken there was not sufficient dust on the floor to cause the child to be covered – The mother told me she had put the child in a pail. I asked to see it but Mrs. Green told me she knew nothing about it. She said there was no pail there (lma/m/spc/ne296b)
For what it's worth, My dad the OB/GYN says that even today the only guaranteed permanent change in a woman who has reached advanced pregnancy is that the hips never settle back into their previous position, but even then the difference can be so slight that it can easily be missed. The connective tissues of the pelvis would have to be very carefully scrutinized.
The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
I've been revisitng notes on Killeen from a couple of years ago. Timothy Killeen was just 24 when he carried out the post-mortem examination on Martha Tabram, having celebrated his birthday shortly before her death.
He had been registered to practice with the GMC less than two years. In short, he was a young, inexperienced doctor. That doesn't necessarily mean that he was incorrect in his assessment of Tabram's wounds; but it is nonetheless a factor for consideration. I do not think, in the circumstances, that we can safely dismiss the possibility that he was mistaken.
Killeen remained in London for only a short time [as noted by the wiki] returning to Ennis, Clare, where he spent the remainder of his life working locally as a general practioner. He died aged 47 in 1912.