Essay on Cause of Napoleon Bonaparte's Death

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A. Plan of Investigation Napoleon’s death has been attributed to many causes: stomach cancer, arsenic poisoning, improper medical treatment, hepatitis, and St. Helena’s climate. The purpose is to ascertain the likeliest cause, and if foul play was involved. With each possible cause, there are different implications, i.e., cancer frees everyone from blame, hepatitis incriminates the British, improper medical treatment the doctors, and poisoning implicates the suspected poisoner. The focus is on four causes - cancer, poisoning, improper treatment, and hepatitis - common explanations for Napoleon’s failing health, and evidence that supports or refutes each case. B. Summary of Evidence 1. Napoleon’s Last Days: On May 5th, 1821; Napoleon…show more content…
However, by April 25th, Napoleon was coughing up black flecks and blood, and two days later, Napoleon’s fever was higher, with shivering fits and violent hiccups (McLynn 654). Come May 3rd, Napoleon had alarming symptoms, and at 6 pm, Dr. Arnott recommended ten grains (0.6g) of calomel – the miracle drug of the day, mercury chloride. Antommarchi protested, thinking it would kill him as he hadn’t eaten in 6 days, but was outnumbered. By 11-12 pm came a black evacuation, after which Napoleon drank more orgeat (Antommarchi 150). On May 4th, Napoleon constantly drank orgeat, continued to evacuate substances, but was no longer conscious of bowel movements – it was evident the calomel produced a huge haemorrhage (Antommarchi 151). On May 5th, he vomited the same matter he evacuated, had delirium and couldn’t even speak (Antommarchi 152). He died at 5:51 pm (McLynn 655). Napoleon’s periodical illnesses were chiefly digestive and were around as far back as 1816 (Johnson 176). In May, Napoleon complained of weak legs, headaches, and chills; in July, sharp side pains; ill again in September, and all October and early November, which included problems of the gums, coughing, shivering, and weakness. He had similar problem in February, March, and September of 1817 (McLynn 645). His first doctor, O’Meara, used a mercury treatment as his liver showed signs of hepatitis, including severe pain on his right (McLynn 648). Hepatitis was endemic in St.
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