For Halloween, tour the dark side of Massachusetts medical history

             We’re sorry we missed the last Longwood Avenue walking tour for the season. Advertised as a tour of Boston’s “world-renowned” medical centers, the trip is clearly upbeat, with an emphasis on firsts and breakthroughs.  For a bit of the seamier side of Boston health history, you can still catch the Boston by Foot “Darkside” tour, which covers sites associated with the city’s smallpox and influenza epidemics.

Maybe they could combine the two by offering a healthcare/darkside tour.  First stop: Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety and Medical Error Reduction – named for the Boston Globe health news reporter who died in 1994 as the result of a medication error — an overdose of chemotherapy. They would have to add a Cambridge leg to the tour to get to Mt. Auburn Hospital, where a doctor took mid-surgery break to go cash his paycheck. Or, consider the Harvard monkeys. They keep dying at Harvard’s primate research center. And, they got caught up in a case of fraud when former psychology professor embellished the results of his research.

Murderous and murdered docs? The alleged “Craig’s List killer” – a BU med student – committed suicide in jail before he could be tried for murdering an “escort” in a Copley Square hotel.  Head to the suburbs for a walk in the woods where a Wellesley allergist was convicted of beating his wife and slashing her throat. Prosecutors said he was motivated by his appetite for prostitutes and phone sex. Richard Sharpe, a so-called “cross-dressing” dermatologist”  convicted of fatally shooting his wife point blank with a hunting rifle, also committed suicide in jail.

But, in Boston’s most notorious medical murder, the victim was doctor. In 1849, Boston Brahman Dr. George Parkman tried to collect a debt from a chemist co-worker and ended up dead. The killer chemist dismembered the body and hid it behind a wall at what was then Harvard Medical School, which was then at the site that is now Mass General Hospital. Download the app for a self guided walking tour.

Halloween ghoulishness aside, domestic violence is not to be taken lightly. Sharpe’s daughter has spoken out via a group called The R.O.S.E. Fund (Regaining One’s Self Esteem), which among other efforts seeks to transform “the lives of survivors that have physical reminders of their abusive past. In partnership with our medical affiliates we provide female survivors of domestic abuse with access to medical and dental reconstructive procedures to help them to regain their self-esteem.”  So, add one more stop to the tour — Mass Eye and Ear – where docs help heal victims of violence..

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