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Steven Lee Carson: Depression Might Have Derailed Lincoln's Recovery, Historian Says

Historians in the News




If Abraham Lincoln survived his head wound through modern trauma care, he would have retained his mental awareness, but likely been left inarticulate among other disabilities-which might have exacerbated his already existent depression.

"It would be more of a problem because he already suffered from depression," advised Steven Lee Carson, a Presidential historian from the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, D.C., who spoke at the 13th annual Clinicopathological Conference in May about the social and historical implications had Lincoln lived in 1865. "[Dr. Scalea hypothesized that] he would have probably been dyslexic, and although he had reasoning abilities, he would not be able to communicate. He would be inarticulate and possibly blind in one eye or both eyes."

At the very least, had Lincoln survived, he would have required a long rehabilitation process. "Any patient who would suffer such grievous wounds as Lincoln would have had problems with depression," Carson advised. "Lincoln already suffered from massive depression long before [he was shot]. It's very well-known. So, he would have had the double-whammy of depression upon depression, plus his moods."

Lincoln was well-known for his sense of humor, and once said that the reason he jokes 'is to keep from dying,' Carson said. But with his injury, he might not have been able to joke like he did because of the possibility of not being able to articulate his thoughts.
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