“A Sick Child is Always the Mother’s Property”: The Jane Austen Pediatric Trauma Management Protocol

Perri Klass

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Two pediatric accidents in Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1818) and one in Margaret Oliphant’s The Doctor’s Family (1863) are examined from the point of view of trauma management with analysis of contributing risk factors, medical management, concerns of parents and bystanders, and course of recovery. Risk factors for injury are impulsivity, poor supervision, and parents who are unable to set limits. Medical attention is swift and competent, but no heroic measures are used; the management of the injuries, concussion with loss of consciousness and dislocation of the collar bone, is consistent with the way these conditions are, for the most part, still managed today, and successful recovery depends on careful nursing and rest. Louisa Musgrove, who suffers a severe head injury, requires ten weeks of convalescence and undergoes a marked personality change, which we might today attribute in part to post-concussion syndrome but which may reflect contemporary debate about the biological basis of personality and behavior. A sudden traumatic injury to a child or adolescent changes the narrative abruptly, in fiction or in life, dividing a story into before and after, introducing grief and anxiety, and requiring that plans be rethought and personal relationships reshuffled with decisions about caretaking and nursing.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)121-129
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Medical Humanities
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 2021


    • Acromioclavicular dislocation
    • British fiction
    • Concussion
    • Head trauma
    • Jane Austen
    • Margaret Oliphant
    • Nursing
    • Pediatric trauma
    • Persuasion

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Health Policy


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