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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Medical Expenses

My June historical western release is Doctor in Petticoats. The heroine is a doctor in a blind school because she can't persuade the medical community in her town to take her seriously as a doctor. But she is highly qualified and jumps at the chance to be the only physician in a small community.

While I didn't need this information for my story, it is one of those things I researched and now have archived for the day I may want to know.

Here are a few prices for medical procedures and assistance in the 1800’s:
A visit within one mile — $1.00
Each succeeding mile — .50
Simple case of midwifery — $5.00
For bleeding — .50
Bullet Wounds — Between $1.00 to 10.00
For setting fracture — $5.00 to 10.00
Amputating Arm — $10.00
Amputating Leg — $20.00
For advice and prescription in office — $1.00
For difficult cases, fee based in proportion to difficulty.

But as was often the case, the doctor accepted goods in lieu of money. And doctors didn't refuse to treat someone because they couldn’t pay.

I'm assuming the $10.00 bullet required more digging and stitching. Wouldn't it be nice to pay only $5 for a birthing? I know my dad says in 1957 he paid $50 for my brother's birth.

Just thought I'd throw this little bit of trivia out there for those of you who have inquiring minds like myself. Maybe one of you can use it in a book.
Do you also gather more information than you'll use in a book? If you're a reader can you tell when a person has over researched?

Paty Jager


Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Paty, great post, and some fascinating information. I cam across some similar information when researching a doctor who runs a free clinic, but I can always use more.
I love my research!One of my WIPs features a former boxing champion, and I was lucky enough to be able to talk to a former amateur boxer, who was a gold mine of information. I didn't use it all, but it was interesting, and I was at least able to understand what I was writing about.
I set another WIP on a fictional island, which involved a whole other set of research fun. I research islands in the area my island was set to get ideas as to what the island looked like, the flora and fauna, etc. Again, I didn't use it all, but it was a fun exercise!

Sally said...

Life long learning, is likely the mantra of all writers with research being an intrgal part of the process. I really enjoy the research process but we definately need to know when enough is enough in the story, which can be a hard thing to learn when the information seems so compelling.

Carol L. said...

Loved the post.Wow, only 5 dollars for a birthing. How much cheaper it would have been to have my 7 back then. :)I love hen Author's share their research other then their stories. Thank you .
Carol L.

misskallie2000 said...

Very interesting post. Of course when you consider what the pay was during this time they were in line with the money made.

Thanks for the interesting post and info re: cost of a physician in this era.

misskallie200 at yahoo dot com

Pauline said...

I hear ya on all counts. I always end up with way too much information for the story, but it's all so interesting I just can't quit.

That's why I starte my blog, http://paulinespiratesandprivateers.blogspot.com/. I needed to have a place for all that wonderfuly history that just wouldn't fit in the novels. Huzzah! for the Internet.

Victoria Gray said...

Hi Paty,
Fascinating article. The array of medical services and prices is certainly indicative of the times...no preventative medicine there : )

Great post!

Susan Macatee said...

I love reading these price lists, Paty!

The heroine in my newest work in progress is working as a physician charges the local school teacher $1.00 to stitch up her arm. LOL.

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Paty,

I know medical procedure costs
can never go back to the 1800s,
but wouldn't it be wonderful if
prices were more reasonable? I
had a knee procedure done in
2004 and the clinic costs alone
were more than $14,000!!! And
that was for day surgery!!

Pat Cochran

peggy said...

I would love to get an doctor bill like those.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

I think we always find more information than we end up using, but like backstory of our characters, it's information that's good for US to know, even if the reader doesn't. The one thing I researched that my editor made me take out was a discription of the living room furniture in one of my contemps. I really liked descriping it, but as Stacy pointed out, it really wasn't necessary. Still, it was fun to look online at all this western, antler and cowhide furniture!

My mom has my brother's hospital bill from 1968. He was born in a military hospital and she only had to pay for her meals, which I think came under $10.....I actually think 50 cents a mile was a lot back then. Geez, even now the government only gives us 45 cents a mile for expenses. LOL.

Paty Jager said...

Cynthia, I agree, I think researching for books is more fun than the actual writing and you learn so much along the way.

Paty Jager said...

I agree, Sally.

Carol L. Wow- seven children! I enjoy sharing info I discover if not in my stories then in other ways.

Miss Kallie, You're welcome. And yes, they didn't make near what we do now, but cost is fun to compare.

Paty Jager said...

Pauline, That's what i do with this blog and Historical blog for my publisher- I purge all the information I do and don't use in my books.

Thanks, Victoria.

Susan, Your book sounds interesting.

Pat and Peggy, thank you for stopping by.

Anna Kathryn, it is so hard when you research and find something you really like to know if it's enough or too much. I thought the mileage was steep too, considering hay for the horse pulling the buggy wouldn't have been near the cost of gas when it came out. LOL

Tara W said...

I'm a huge fan of the historical romance genre. I don't recall any story i've read being over researched. There have been quite a few stories i've read where there wasn't enough research done. As long as there is a great story line-i'm happy!

Paty Jager said...

Tara W. I have a critique partner who is always asking to know more about things. But I feel like it would bog the story down to add all the things she wants to know more about.

stacey said...

bleeding part that allways gets me.in less your opening a sore up bleeding does you know good i can't understand how they ever thought it did.

Brandy said...

Boy would that be nice, but I guess if I lived then i wouldn't be able to afford to see a doc either, lol