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Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a prominent doctor in Philadelphia in 1793. He believed that Yellow Fever could best be cured by ridding the body of toxins that had collected in the blood, and espoused a very aggressive treatment of bleeding and purging for his patients. Dr. Jean Deveze, a refugee from Santo Domingo, was the primary physician in the asylum for the sick established by Stephen Girard, a French-born merchant. Dr. Deveze disagreed with Rush's practices, and treated his patients by keeping them comfortable and administering mild doses of quinine and stimulants. His methods are generally thought to have been more effective than those of Dr. Rush.
Although Dr. Rush never appears personally in Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793, he is spoken of as something of an alarmist (Chapter 9). Mattie, the central character, does come in direct contact with Dr. Deveze, however, when she comes down with the fever herself. Dr. Deveze is portrayed as a gentle, caring man who does not "carry a lancet or bowl" for bleeding and purging, and Mrs. Flagg, his helper, asserts that although Dr. Rush is considered to be a hero by many, she herself believes that it is "these French doctors here that know how to cure the fever". In Mattie's case, Dr. Deveze is "most concerned with the color of (her) eyes and tongue, and the temper of (her) pulse". Measuring her progress on the tenth day of her illness through observation, Dr. Deveze recommends one more night in the asylum. He views the fact that Mattie is famished as a positive sign, and instructs his aides to "feed her" (Chapter 15).
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