Fillers One hundred years ago

The Collins case

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 10 October 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:986

The recent trial of Dr. Collins will be read by the profession with interest, and with mingled feelings of satisfaction and regret—with interest, on account of the medico-legal questions involved, and the ability with which they were handled by the able counsel who defended Collins; with satisfaction, because a scoundrel has been stopped in his evil trade; with regret, that a career which began with such bright promise should end in such a ruin of disgrace.

The case was simple. Mrs. Uzielli, a fashionable lady, found herself pregnant. She did not want any more children, so she went to Collins, who induced abortion. Fatal peritonitis followed. Collins was put upon his trial for murder, but the jury found him guilty of manslaughter, No one could suppose that he wanted to kill the poor lady; and this consideration doubtless prevented the jury from finding him guilty of wilful murder ….

… We imagine that the only doctors who are never asked to procure abortion are those who are known not to practise midwifery. The medical profession has in this matter a very sacred duty: to make their patients not merely recognise that maternal duties exist, but that those duties are their highest privileges. Those who regard their children as a “heritage of the Lord” will not rush to imperil their health and their lives when menstruation fails to appear.

A marriage in which pregnancy is habitually either prevented or interrupted is one from which the strongest tie that binds together husband and wife is absent; in which worldly pleasures, which soon pall, are preferred to duties which if accepted and faithfully discharged, add greater interest and delight to life than anything else: in which love often waxes cold, and old age becomes a dreary solitude. The husband very possibly sets up an establishment somewhere else, and the wife, as a great novelist puts it, “relapses upon religion and little dogs.” The Hebrew Poet-king was right when he said: “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; he shall not be afraid of his enemies in the gate.” (BMJ 1898;ii:103)

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