From Robert Middlekauf’s The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789:
When surgeons were available they took care of the wounded. Bleeding the wounded sometimes served as treatment and not always with fatal results. Dr. James Thacher, who was taken into the medical department of the army as a surgeon’s mate, reported that one of his senior colleagues, a Dr. Eustis, once treated a “dangerous wound” of the shoulder and lungs by bleeding. While dilating the wound, Dr. Eustis “recommended repeated and liberal bloodletting, observing that in order to cure a wound through the lungs, you must bleed your patient to death.” Thacher reported that the wounded man recovered; the principal reason, Thacher believed, was the treatment he received.
I think discussions of health care economics pay far too little attention to the question of pre-modern health care. People have been earning a living as medical professionals for a long time. And yet everybody knows that the invention of actually useful medical treatments is pretty recent development. Surely this tells us something about the nature of the health care consumer’s ability to find and purchase cost effective treatments.