1849: Frenchman corks own bottom to save on food

Writing in a colo-rectal guidebook in 1881, Dr William H. Van Buren described several instances of patients placing foreign objects into their own bowel or rectum. In most cases the patients claimed to be seeking relief from severe constipation. It goes without saying that while many objects entered readily, not all were so willing to depart.

In 1878, a 35-year-old valet:

“…inserted a glass bottle into his rectum with the object of stopping an urgent diarrhoea, and was brought to the hospital the next day with much pain of belly, vomiting and exhaustion.”

The bottle was eventually recovered – after a lengthy procedure involving scalpels, forceps and cat gut. Another case, cited by Van Buren from 1849, is notable for its motive rather than its method:

“A gardener, to economise in food, plugged his rectum with a piece of wood, which had carefully carved with barbs to prevent its slipping out. Nine days afterward he was brought to the hospital in great agony. The mass had mounted beyond the reach of the finger… in consequence of the barbs described by the patient, Dr Reali made no effort to extract it from below but proceeded at once to open the abdomen and thus safely delivered his patient, who made a good recovery.”

Source: William H. Van Buren, Lectures upon Diseases of the Rectum and Surgery of the Lower Bowel, 1881. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.