Robert Liston was an nineteenth century pioneering Scottish surgeon who, in one surgery, achieved a 300% mortality rate. Liston was famous for the speed with which he was able to carry out procedures, which was pivotal in a time before anaesthetics, when speed made all the difference in terms of pain and survival. Indeed, he is described as “the fastest knife in the West End. He could amputate a leg in 21⁄2 minutes”. Indeed … he is said to have been able to perform the removal of a limb in … in 28 seconds”.
However, in his most famous surgery Liston’s patient, who’s leg had been amputated in under 21⁄2 minutes, died afterwards in hospital, and, whilst carrying out the procedure, Liston also managed to cut off the fingers of his assistant, who also died later of gangrene, and, Liston also slashed through the coat tails of a distinguished surgical spectator, who was so terrified that the knife had pierced his vitals he dropped dead from fright. This was the only operation in history with a 300% mortality.
Another noteworthy surgery performed by Liston is one in which he quickly and successfully amputated the leg of his patient but, in his enthusiasm, also managed to amputate the man’s testicles.