HC Deb 27 April 1865 vol 178 cc1082-3

said, he rose to ask the President of the Poor Law Board a Question with reference to the conduct of the Parochial Authorities in refusing medical aid to a woman named Mary Green, who died in childbirth. According to the published account of the case, the husband of the woman sent for a doctor named Butler, who had purchased the practice of a former doctor. Mr. Butler came to the house and looked around, but seeing that the people were very poor, and that he was not likely to get his fee, he left the place, recommending the people to send for the parish doctor. The man went to the workhouse at Islington, stated the case, and asked for the assistance of the parochial doctor. ["Order!"] The man was told that medical assistance would not be afforded to the woman unless he produced the marriage certificate. He then secured the services of another medical man, but by the time that the latter had arrived, the child was dead, the woman herself dying shortly afterwards. He wished, therefore, to ask, Whether it is the rule of the Poor Law Board that the medical officer shall not attend poor women under similar circumstances without the production of marriage certificates, and also, if such is the rule, whether Her Majesty's Government will take any steps to have it repealed?


said, in reply, that he had seen the report of the case in the newspapers, but he was not yet perfectly informed as to the details; but he had already sent for the depositions taken before the Coroner, and should shortly know what had precisely occurred. As soon, however, as he saw the report, he had requested an Inspector to make in- quiry at the workhouse at Islington, to know more of the matter, and though he learnt that the case was substantially as described by the hon. Member, yet it did not appear that any authorities at the workhouse had been to blame. The poor man who had applied for medical assistance for his wife was not a pauper, but an independent artizan, and he had never intended seeking relief. On the contrary, expecting his wife to be confined, he had made an arrangement with a medical man to attend her during her confinement. In the meantime, however, the doctor had sold his business to another practitioner, and with it transferred all the engagements he had contracted. When, therefore, this poor woman was taken ill, she sent for the doctor who had purchased the business, and it was true, he believed, that being struck with the apparent poverty of the people, he declined to attend her, and said it was a case for the parish. Upon which the husband went to the workhouse, and applied for medical relief, but, unfortunately, he only applied to a man standing at the gate, who was no officer, but a pauper and inmate of the workhouse, and he told the man that they would not give him medical relief unless he produced his marriage certificate; on which, unfortunately, the man went away. It so happened that the relieving officer was always at the workhouse, and his directions were to provide medical relief immediately in all cases of emergency, and in this case that relief would certainly have been provided, had he been apprized of the matter. The man, upon leaving the house, called upon another doctor, who readily went to the poor woman's assistance, but when he arrived it was too late, and shortly afterwards the poor woman died.