Fillers One hundred years ago

Is nail-cutting a surgical operation?

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 22 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1413

Some time ago a German court had to adjudicate on the question whether corns constitute a disease. A still more abstruse problem has recently engaged the attention of a Vienna tribunal. A medical practitioner of that city, having occasion to operate, very properly trimmed his nails as a preliminary. In doing so, however, he cut his finger, but was nevertheless able to perform several operations on the same day. The wound became infected, and the practitioner himself had to be operated on. He was thus disabled for twenty-one days, and therefore claimed 5 florins a day from an accident assurance company. The company repudiated liability, on the ground that, according to its by-laws, no claim can be entertained for an operation performed by a medical practitioner on himself. The question whether nail-cutting is a surgical operation appears to have proved too much for the judicial intellect, for, after hearing arguments on both sides and suffering much vexation of spirit, the court reserved its decision. We do not presume to offer any help towards the solution of so subtle a question. We venture, however, to submit that, if nail-cutting comes within the sphere of operative surgery, a fortiorishaving must do so, for that procedure was once among the duties of a surgeon. So well was this recognised in some countries that at the beginning of the present century some English surgeons were summarily dismissed the Danish Naval Service for refusing to act as barbers to the crews of their ships. (BMJ 1899;ii:1377

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