The Surgeon and the Emperor: a Humanitarian on the Battlefield
Dept. of Neurosurgery, Rambam (Maimonides) Medical Center; B. Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa
The Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, one of the greatest names in military surgery, participated as Chief Surgeon in all the Napoleonic campaigns. He developed the concept of early evacuation from the battlefield, and of immediate treatment of the wounded, even under fire. He implemented improved surgical techniques and improved wound care that were followed by surgeons all over Europe. His devotion to wounded soldiers crossed national boundaries and became a way of life. Here is an account of Larrey's involvement in the aftermath of the Battles of Lutzen and Bautzen (May-June 1813), when many soldiers were accused of self-mutilation and were about to be executed. He dared to oppose, singlehanded, the Emperor, the highest military authorities and their concurring physicians and surgeons, armed only by his undisputed honesty, professional authority and exceptional reputation won over years of devotion to wounded soldiers. Larrey saved the lives of many soldiers and set an example of unbent ethical integrity.