So here is a particularly horrible story for you! But rest assured, although it really happened, it was back in the 19th century. With modern medicine, we are never again likely to see such incredible cases.
This mind-boggling story was first reported in the London Medical and Surgical Journal in 1835, based on a story found in a Greek review. Recently, a blog by Thomas Morris, which aims to “make us grateful for modern medicine” has given the story new found fame.
The event took place in Greece in 1835, when Dr. Ardoin, an expat French doctor, was tasked with the case of a young boy called Demetrius Stamatelli. Demetrius was complaining of terrible stomach pains and was almost in agony.
Dr. Ardoin prescribed a whole host of remedies which proved utterly ineffective, and the patient continued to suffer. Finally, the doctor saw no other alternative than to administer the last rites, predicting a quick and painful death. However, finally he tried giving the child an emetic drug, in the faint hope that his difficulties were simply down to indigestion.
Nobody suspected the nature of the problem affecting Demetrius Stamatelli. What happened after taking the emetic drug is simply incredible. After a short period of mild vomiting, the boy was suddenly gripped by intense pain and vomited up an entire foetus! Dr. Ardoin’s description is unequivocal:
“The head of the foetus was well developed, also one arm perfectly formed; it had no inferior extremities, but merely a fleshy prolongation, thin at the extremity, and attached to the placenta by a kind of umbilical cord. Three days afterwards the patient was much better, all the morbid symptoms were diminished, and he has since continued to improve.”
For certain, the foetus was the boy’s twin, resulting from a very rare occurrence which is now called ischio-pagus (or “parasitic twin”). It happens when two twins become tangled up in the uterus, preventing the development of one of the twins. The deformed twin is often integrated into the body of the other twin, and is referred to as a ‘parasitic’ twin.
In fact, this is why some children are born with additional underdeveloped limbs, extra internal organs or even with a foetus attached to a part of their bodies. Nowadays, parasitic twins are quickly detected on ultrasound scans.
However, the fact the this boy vomited up the parasitic twin via his mouth is surely a unique case, which explains Dr. Ardoin’s fascination:
I carried the foetus to my house, and there, in the presence of all the medical men at Syra, but more particularly of M.M. Milonas and Corco, examined very minutely this anatomical production, which we recognised to be a human foetus. Afterwards we preserved it in spirits. I made it thus public, so that it might not be considered any imposition.”