The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
wished to put a question to the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies, respecting an unfortunate occurrence which had happened, at the beginning of last month, to a passenger-vessel called the Hemisphere, with 400 or 500 passengers on board. The vessel had commenced her voyage to New York, when a sudden lurch took place in a gale of wind, the masts went overboard, and several sailors were thereby washed overboard and drowned, while others were severely injured and killed. She was fortunately met by a steamer, which towed her into the port of Liverpool. A sailor, whose arm was entangled in the rigging, and was broken, was said to have had that limb cut off by a surgeon on board, with a common carving-knife, just as a butcher would cut off a leg of mutton. The arm afterwards mortified, and the man died. A coroner's inquest was subsequently held on his body, and a verdict of "Accidental death" was returned. Now, the Passenger Act provided that there should be a competent surgeon on board of all vessels carrying a certain number of passengers. He thought it likely that the noble Earl would say, in reply to him, that this vessel was an American vessel, and that therefore the master was exonerated from carrying a surgeon, as he would have been compelled to do, had it been an English vessel. What he wanted to know was, whether the noble Earl had received any information as to this very serious occurrence, or whether he would have any objection to his moving that the evidence 394 taken at the inquest held on the body of the sailor should be laid on their Lordships' table?
§ EARL GREY
said, he had received the report of the Commissioners of Emigration with reference to the case alluded to by the noble Earl. The fact was, that until lately it was not required that passenger ships should carry a surgeon; but in the Passenger Act it was provided, that in cases where the passengers exceeded a certain number, and where, consequently, the risk of sickness would be greater, a surgeon should go out with the vessel. There was, however, a clause in the Bill which enacted, that wherever the space allotted to each passenger should exceed fourteen superficial feet, the presence of n medical officer might be dispensed with. Now, every emigrant ship entering New York was bound by the laws of that State to have that space for each passenger, and consequently with ships bound thither the statute was a dead letter. The case alluded to by the noble Earl was that of the ship Hemisphere, a remarkably fine vessel. She was not bound by law to have a surgeon, nor had she one on board as such. In consequence of the inclemency of the weather, one sailor met with a dreadful accident, his arm being broken in such a manner as, perhaps, to render its restoration impossible. A gentleman happened to be on board who had a diploma, but no instruments, and the arm being held by only a small piece of flesh, he severed it from the seaman's body, in the hopes of affording him some temporary relief from pain. He (Earl Grey) believed that the operation did afford the poor man some temporary relief, although he ultimately sank under the accident and died. Such being the state of the facts, and the ship not being compelled by law to carry a surgeon, he did not think it a case for Government interference.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
read an extract from a Liverpool paper, the purport of which was, that the gentleman alluded to had been shipped by the owners of the vessel as a surgeon, and that it was understood he was to give his professional assistance when necessary.
§ EARL GREY
said, that the owners did not conceive themselves bound to send out a surgeon with the vessel; but as this gentlemen had applied for a passage, his professional skill was taken advantage of in the case of the accident. Besides, the accident happened to a sailor, and not to a 395 passenger, and might, therefore, have occurred on board any other than an emigrant ship. If the noble Earl liked to move for an address for the Emigration Commissioners' report, he (Earl Grey) should have great pleasure in supporting the Motion.