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Victims of Ireland'S Great FamineThe Bioarchaeology of Mass Burials at Kilkenny Union Workhouse$
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Jonny Geber

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813061177

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813061177.001.0001

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Institutionalization as the Last Resort

Institutionalization as the Last Resort

Famine Diseases, Mortality, and Medical Interventions

(p.115) 4 Institutionalization as the Last Resort
Victims of Ireland'S Great Famine

Jonny Geber

University Press of Florida

To resort to the workhouse during the Famine was an act of desperation, and many people were seemingly severely malnourished and physically exhausted when they entered the institution. The overcrowded situation of the union workhouses in Ireland during the Famine turned many of them into hotspots of infectious diseases such as typhus, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, cholera and smallpox. The paleopathologcial analysis of the skeletons of deceased inmates from the Kilkenny workhouse revealed high rates of scurvy, which is a direct reflection of the Famine as Vitamin C was primarily acquired from the potato prior to the blight. Other diagnosed conditions include rickets, possible iron deficiency anemia, tuberculosis, osteomyelitis and respiratory disease. Discrepancies in relative mortality frequencies in skeletons with and without diagnosed diseases suggests that scurvy influenced the death rates in the workhouse, and that individuals who had previously experienced severe health insults prior to the Famine had a greater chance of longer survival. The physicians in the Kilkenny workhouse struggled immensely to keep people alive, and this effort is evident from cases of amputations and craniotomies.

Keywords:   amputations, anemia, craniotomies, mortality, osteomyelitis, workhouse, respiratory disease, rickets, scurvy, tuberculosis

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