"Dr. Halliday Sutherland is a born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better” – G.K. Chesterton
In this excerpt from Dr Sutherland’s speech Consumption: Its Cause and Cure, he talked about the environment in which consumption thrived.
Regard their environment: when a population is overcrowded and underfed living in dark tenements, or in back-to-back houses, breathing foul or twice-breathed air in ill-ventilated rooms seldon lit by the sun, working long hours in gas-lit workshops for a sweated wage, striving without an end for strife, buying the cheapest food in the dearest market, and drugged by bad liquor, it it any marvel that they, the indigent product of city life, should fall the first and easiest victims to a disease which stands highest on the death-roll of every country in the civilised world?
It is amidst such appalling surroundings that you do find tuberculous homes and the ravages of infection—in one case a mother and her entire family of nine children all died of the disease within a period of ten years. A child is reared by a mother with advanced disease and no precautions are taken. She coughs, and the air in her immediate vicinity is laden with droplets of secretion containing tubercle bacilli. This air the child breathes. Millions of bacilli are deposited on the skin and clothing, and are carried to the mouth by the hands. Again the mother kisses the child and the germs are swallowed. She prepares the food and drink , handles it and coughs over it. Everything, including the table utensils, is infected, and the child swallows human infection at every meal. Such children are inoculated in every way. They are saturated with tubercle bacilli.
How then can we control and exterminate this disease? One thing is clear. We must search out the source of infection to its uttermost haunts. We must seek for the ignorant, undiagnosed, unknown and untreated consumptive who scatters infection throughout the ill-ventilated and over-crowded homes of the poor.
Photograph shows the “Pure Air Shelter” at the St Marylebone Dispensary for the Prevention of Consumption, 15 Allsop Place, N.W. circa 1911