Medicine has always sought to cure sufferers of what ails them. In the physician’s valiant efforts, sometimes, not only success failed to be achieved, but the sufferer was worse off. In the Bible book bearing his name, Mark relates one well-known ancient example:
“Now there was a woman subject to a flow of blood twelve years, and she had been put to many pains by many physicians and had spent all her resources and had not been benefited but, rather, had got worse.” -Mark 5:25, 26.
Again, mercury and other hazardous substances were sometimes used in the formulation of medications. In fact, the body of one famous individual with a violent disposition was exhumed to determine if there was some physical basis for his temperament. There was an overpowering level of mercury in his body. The man’s name? Ivan the Terrible.
Perhaps a better known example of dangerous medicine is bloodletting. The first president of the United States, George Washington became seriously ill. A theory in those days was that there are various “humors” in the human body. Removing some of the blood from a person who is sick should let out some of the bad. In reality, it weakened the already ill Washington so much it partly caused his death.
We will mention one last example of dangerous medicine before we address the topic of foot x-ray machines article – thalidomide. Thalidomide is still manufactured and still used, but only for certain very specific situations, and never for the alleviation of morning sickness in pregnant women, as it once was.
Thalidomide, as Wikipedia says, produced “limb deficiencies in a way that the long limbs either were not developed or presented themselves as stumps. Other effects included deformed eyes and hearts, deformed alimentary and urinary tracts, blindness and deafness.” Of such affected children, only roughly half survived at all.
Clearly not all medicine has proven to be good medicine. Now we will discuss those foot x-ray machines that were sometimes still on display (even if not used) in shoe stores when the author was a child!
Dangerous Medicine: Foot X-ray Machines
I moved to the town of Haddonfield, New Jersey in 1955. When it came time to buy shoes, Mom, for a little while, took me to the Stride Rite shoe store downtown.
Here is a most informative and enjoyable YouTube video demonstrating in detail the use and effect of foot x-ray machines of the day.
By the 1950s, the x-ray machine was no longer used in our store. Still, it was there, on display. I was fascinated by it! No doubt the kids, mentioned in the above video, felt much as I did. They received a dosage of radiation I’m very glad I never received. Hopefully none of them suffered the potential ill health they might have experienced. It might be pointed out that some women fear they might have contracted thyroid disease through such devices. Some authors suggest the idea is correct. Others believe if they contracted thyroid disease through radiation exposure, it was due to tests other than those using the foot fluoroscope.
- Oak Ridge Associated Universities: Shoe-fitting Fluoroscope (ca. 1930 – 1940)
- Thyroid Disease by Sareh Parangki, Roy Phitayakorn
- NY Times: Thyroid Fears Aside, That X-Ray’s Worth It