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6 But among the foregoing signs, though there are indeed grounds for fear, still there is hope left: however, that the last stage has now been reached is indicated by the nose becoming pointed, the temples sunken, the eyes hollowed, the ears cold and flaccid with the tips drooping slightly, the skin of the forehead hard and tight: the aspect is dusky or very pallid, and much more so when there has been no preceding insomnia, nor diarrhoea, nor loss of appetite. From which causes these appearances at times arise, but only last one day: and so when they last longer death is indicated. In the case of long-standing disease, when such signs have lasted for the third day, death is at hand, and the more so if besides this the eyes also shun the light and shed tears, and are reddened where they should be white, and the veins in them are pale, and phlegm floating in them comes to stick to the angles and one eye becomes smaller than the other, and either both are deep-sunken, or more tumid, and the eyelids are not closed in sleep, but some of the white of the eyes appears between them — always provided that this has not been occasioned by fluid motions; the same is the case when the eyelids become pale and a similar pallor renders colourless the lips and nostrils; so also when the lips and nostrils and eyes and eyebrows or any one of them become distorted; and the patient owing to weakness either hears not or sees not. Death is likewise denoted: when the patient lies on his back with his knees bent; when he keeps on slipping down towards the foot of the bed; when he uncovers his arms and legs and tosses them [p. 111] about anyhow, whilst they lack warmth; when he gapes, when he continually falls asleep; when he whose mind is amiss grinds his teeth, which he did not do in health; when an ulceration, whether pre-existing or arising in the course of the illness, has become dry and either pallid or livid. The following are also indications of death: the nails and fingers pallid; the breath cold; or if the patient, in a fever or acute disease, or mad or with pain either in the lung or head, picks with his hands at the flock or pulls at the fringes of the bedclothes, or claws at anything small projecting from the adjacent wall. Pains about the hips and lower parts, which, after starting and spreading to the viscera, then suddenly subside, afford evidence of oncoming death, and the more so if there are other signs in addition. It is impossible for a patient to be saved, who, having fever without any swelling, is suddenly choked, or who cannot swallow his saliva; or who, in the same condition of fever and body, has the neck twisted so that he can swallow nothing whatever; or who has continuous fever and is in the last stage of bodily weakness; or when, without the fever subsiding, the surface of the body becomes cold whilst the interior is so hot as even to produce thirst; or when, likewise without the fever subsiding, he is distressed at once by delirium and difficulty in breathing; or when, after a draught of hellebore, he is seized with spasm; or becoming drunk he loses his speech: for generally he is carried off in a spasm, unless either fever supervenes, or he begins to speak by the time that the intoxication should have passed off. A woman also when pregnant is easily carried of by an acute disease, as also a man[p. 113] in whom sleep aggravates pain, and one in whom, at the very beginning of a fresh disorder, black bile presents itself, whether below or above; or after his body has become attenuated by a long illness and weakened, when such bile gains exit either way. Expectoration of bile or pus, whether they come up separately or mixed, discloses a danger of death. And when either commences about the seventh day, the patient will most likely die about the fourteenth day, unless other signs, better or worse, supervene; and according as these subsequent signs are the slighter or the graver, so they denote a later or earlier death. In an acute fever a cold sweat is noxious, and so is a vomit in any malady when varied in composition and multicoloured, particularly so when malodorous. And to have vomited blood in a fever is also noxious. Now red and thin urine is usual in severe indigestion, and often, before there is time for it to mature, it carries the man off; and so when such urine persists for a rather long while, danger of death is indicated. The worst and especially death-bringing urine, however, is that which is black, thick, malodorous; such urine is most to be dreaded both in men and in women; but in children urine which is thin and diluted. A motion also is noxious: when varied in composition, when it presents shreds, blood, bile, greenish matter, whether at different times, or simultaneously mixed together yet distinguishable. But although it is possible for the patient to bear up awhile against such symptoms, a speedy termination is denoted, when the motion is livid and also when it is either[p. 115] black, or pallid, or fatty, especially if there is added an intensely fetid odour.

I know that on this point someone may question me:— if there are such sure signs of approaching death, how is it that patients who have been deserted by their medical attendants sometimes recover? And rumour has spread it about that some have revived whilst being carried out to burial. Democritus, indeed, a man justly renowned, even held that the signs of life having ended, upon which practitioners had relied, were not sufficiently sure; much more did he not admit that there could be any sure signs of approaching death. In answer to these I shall not even assert that some signs, stated as approximately certain, often deceive inexperienced practitioners, but not good ones; for instance Asclepiades, when he met the funeral procession, recognized that a man who was being carried out to burial was alive; and it is not primarily a fault of the art if there is a fault on the part of its professor. But I shall more modestly suggest that the art of medicine is conjectural, and such is the characteristic of a conjecture, that though it answers more frequently, yet it sometimes deceives. A sign therefore is not to be rejected if it is deceptive in scarcely one out of a thousand cases, since it holds good in countless patients. I state this, not merely in connexion with noxious signs, but as to salutary signs as well; seeing that hope is disappointed now and again, and that the patient dies whom the practitioner at first deemed safe; and further that measures proper for curing now and again make a change into something worse. Nor, in the face of such a variety of temperaments, can[p. 117] human frailty avoid this. Nevertheless the medical art is to be relied upon, which more often, and in by far the greater number of patients, benefits the sick. It should not be ignored, however, that it is rather in acute diseases that signs, whether of recovery or of death, may be fallacious.

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load focus Introduction (Charles Victor Daremberg, 1891)
load focus Latin (W. G. Spencer, 1971)
load focus Latin (Charles Victor Daremberg, 1891)
load focus Latin (Friedrich Marx, 1915)
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