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What killed President Garfield, germs or a bullet?

Sep 19, 2016

The next time you're at the doctor's office and you notice all the hand washing and sterile equipment, think of President James Garfield and count your blessings that it's 2016 and not 1881.

On this day in 1881, President Garfield died, completing what Dr. Howard Markel describes as "an agonizing march towards oblivion that began on July 2." 

President Garfield was the victim of an assassination attempt, somewhat similar to what happened to President Ronald Reagan in May 1981. But unlike President Reagan, President Garfield's medical team had no concept of germs and cleanliness. 

Markel sat down with us today for another lesson in medical history. 

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