Sunday, 15 February 2009

Postman's Park (30): Elizabeth Boxall


When Elizabeth Boxall died, ultimately as the result of an injury sustained trying to stop a runaway horse, attention focused not upon her bravery but upon the medical treatment she subsequently received. It is fortunate, then, that the Watts Memorial restored the balance by emphasising her brave actions:

ELIZABETH BOXALL AGED 17 OF BETHNAL GREEN WHO DIED OF INJURIES RECEIVED IN TRYING TO SAVE A CHILD FROM A RUNAWAY HORSE JUNE 20 1888.

At the inquest, by contrast, the injury was just the first point in a history of alleged medical negligence. There were claims that she was 'butchered in the London Hospital' and a verdict of death from shock following an operation there was given. This finding drew an angry response from William Nixon, the hospital's House Governor, who wrote to Lloyd's News to protest at the conduct and reporting of the inquest.

A history of Elizabeth Boxall's life after her attempted rescue can be reconstructed. She was kicked by the horse, and the injury did not heal but was further damaged by a fall. On the day of the fall, Boxall was taken to the London Hospital and cancer was found in the broken limb. An emergency amputation was performed, and for several months she seemed to be recovering but then the cancer recurred. A higher amputation of the limb was performed, following which Boxall was sent to Folkestone to convalesce. However, in June it became apparent that the cancer had spread to her lungs and she was sent home. The first the hospital heard of her death was the newspaper account of the inquest. Nixon was sceptical of whether a jury aware of the facts could have found that Boxall died from shock four months after the operation.

For all Postman's Park posts, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was my dad's aunt. He remembers that her father actually spoke at the Coroner's inquest, and was essentially shuffled out. He maintained that she died of malpractice.... that they had "butchered" her. The context is that for a man from the East End to stand up and challenge the "Establishment" at that time was unheard of.

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