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Saving Missionary Skins Saves Patients’ Lives

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The Role of the Political and Legal Environment on Medical Outcomes

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For more content, please see Le Fait Missionnaire.

When the first American medical missionary to China established the first western-style hospital in Guangzhou in 1834 the political and legal environment was hostile to foreigners and to missionaries in particular but, in some respects, it was conducive to safe medical practice. Given that the early nineteenth-century hospital in the West was a very dangerous place it was important to limit risk in the hospital if the evangelical mission was to survive. An analysis of Peter Parker’s (1804–1888) reports and case studies reveals not only his superior skill and patient outcomes but also the medical and administrative strategies he employed to minimize risk. The study places Parker’s medical work in a comparative frame; moving away from a mission-centric focus to draw China medical missions into a larger narrative of the history of modern medicine.

Affiliations: 1: University of Adelaide, Australia


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