Osceola Died Because He Refused Modern Medical Treatment

Osceola was captured under a flag of truce, then died while still in prison.  The physicians who saw him wanted everyone to know that they were not responsible for his death.  He died because he refused medical treatment.


Osceola, from McKenney and Hall, History of the Indian Tribes of North America

Osceola, from McKenney and Hall, History of the Indian Tribes of North America

From the February 17, 1838 Niles National Register:

At the request of Dr. Weedon, I visited Oceola at Sullivan’s Island.  I saw him in the evening, by candle light–he was lying on his blanket before the fire, his head propped up, and two Indian women (one on each side of him) employed bathing his neck with warm water, in which some herbs had been steeped.  He was breathing with much difficulty, his brow contracted, and his countenance indicating great bodily pain.  His pulse was full and quick, skin hot and dry.  I requested his permission, through the interpreter, to examine his throat, to which he assented.  I discovered that the tonsils were so much enlarged as greatly to impede respiration, and that the mucous membrane of the pharynx was in a high state of inflammation.  As there was some danger of suffocation unless the disease was arrested, I proposed to scarify the tonsile.  The patient referred us to his conjurer, who was sitting on the floor covered up in his blanket, with all the air and dignity of a great man.  He said no!  I next proposed to apply leeches to the throat and back of the ears–the conjurer said no!  I proposed lastly some medicine and a stimulating wash to be applied internally–which he also refused–saying that if the patient was not better in the morning, he would give him up to us.  I urged, entreated, and persuaded him, to let us do something, for although I did not doubt his ability to cure, in the woods, where he could have access to his roots and herbs–yet here he was placed under different circumstances, as he had no means within his reach–begged him to yield up the patient to us.  All was in vain, and we were finally compelled to abandon Oceola to his fate.

In conclusion, I have no hesitation in declaring that I entirely coincided with the views and prescriptions of Dr. Weedon, and believe that had he been permitted to put them in practice, the patient would have recovered.


Professor of Anatomy, Medical college, S.Ca. Charleston,

5 February, 1838


About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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1 Response to Osceola Died Because He Refused Modern Medical Treatment

  1. theresagreen says:

    What a tragic end to a life!

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