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Anatomy of Dr. Humes' Saturday Morning Phone Call

Micah Mileto

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  • 2 weeks later...

A medical professional wrote in one of the comment sections, regarding the part about the chest tubes:




ok so my limited knowledge is this: treating subcutaneous emphasaema (SE) isn't something i see done these days as for the most part it is relatively low risk, except in trauma cases with things like tension pneumothroaxes. I don't know when jfk stopped breathing but usually for SE to occur the patient must have air entering the lung spaces and this would not occur unless the patient was breathing or otherwise ventilated.

As for the chest tubes, it would be easier to answer any direct question you have, but for the most part your section on chest tubes seems very accurate and realistic. the options are, in my opinion:

the pathologists missed the pleural injuries from the tubes (possible since the incisions are small, clean and depending on the patient's circulation at the time may not bruise or bleed at all making them hard to see. However they had hours to check, so i don't think this is very likely. Although emotions may have been affecting their thoroughness i guess)

2) The tubes were inserted but failed to penetrate into the correct cavity, thus leaving the pleura unmolested. Again, possible, though not a likely thing as chest tubes are a common practice in any trauma centre. Again, the unexpected and special patient may have caused people to underperform, but i think it is unlikely.

3) chets tubes may have been ordered but not inserted, causing peoples memories to remember the orders but not the action. I think this is very plausible. A busy OR in a trauma case is a very hectic place to be, and in a case like this i am sure it was ten times as busy and stressful. Often the patient is completely secluded from the vision of all but those who are standing directly at the tableside, and thus a verbal order for chest tube prep may have been heard and remembered by many staff, the cuts may have been done by the doctor at the bedside, but he may have then decided against the chest tube for a number of reasons. (lost cause, wouldn't help anyway, etc). This memory of the words chest tube, or discussions around the chest tube, may be why many staff distinctly remember it, and may have very easily filled in the gaps to assume that the tube was also actually inserted, when in reality it was not. Memories are notoriously unreliable when emotions are high and i can assure you the truth of what happened in that OR and what people remembered may be far far different even as people do their best to be honest. I have been a part of similar situations and my own memory was compromised even though i had no alterior motive.

i hope this helps in some way. Happy to answer any other queries though it will always just be my personal, and thus flawed, opinion :)

2nd or 3rd intercostal at the midclavicular line is wherre incisions for anterior chest drains are performed, so these cuts fit very well with this theory. It is possible that incisions were made but then insertion of tubes abandoned since it was clear the patient would not survive.



I must respectfully disagree with the idea that the chest tubes were never inserted. The record is clear that Drs. Ronald Jones, Charles Baxter, and Paul Peters inserted the tubes. Nurses Margaret Hinchliffe and Diana Bowron said they helped the doctors in the task. Nurse Patricia Hutton said that afterwards, she helped remove the tubes from the body.

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13 hours ago, Ron Bulman said:

Just a thought(s).  Humes call Saturday morning was prompted or it never happened.  Or it occurred Friday night, after limited probing of the throat wound per Burkley.  Some have said this happened Friday night if I recall right.

There is a question of whether this contact took place during or after the autopsy. In Humes' handwritten notes (WC Vol. 17, p. 29), the autopsy protocol (WC D 77 [text]), and Humes' 3/16/1963 testimony to the Warren Commission (WC Vol. 2, p. 347 [text]), the call was said to have taken place on "Saturday morning" 11/23/1963. Technically, this could mean any time between 12:00 – 11:59 AM. The examination may have lasted past midnight, and the pathologists remained in the morgue until the body was prepared for burial by around 3:30-4:00 AM. When Humes was interviewed on 9/16/1977 by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he said that he remembered the call taking place "11 in the morning, perhaps 10:30, something like that", only after he had time to go home, attend a religious function with his family, then return back to Bethesda Hospital (HSCA Vol. 7, p. 243 [text] [audio]). When Humes appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the article said the call happened at 7:30 AM (JAMA, 5/27/1992, JFK's death - the plain truth from the MDs who did the autopsy [text]). When Humes gave his deposition to the Assassination Records Review Board on 2/13/1996, he said he thought the call happened "...8 or 9 o'clock on Saturday morning" (ARRB, 2/13/1996 [text]). In contrast, Dr. Perry told the Warren Commission that he remembered being called by Humes TWICE, and thought he was called on Friday night 11/22/1963 (WC Vol. 6, p. 7, 3/25/1964 testimony [text]; WC Vol. 3, p. 366, 3/30/1964 testimony [text]). Perry's colleague, Dr. Paul Peters, similarly claimed to remember information from the autopsy leaking among themselves on the same day (Interview by Ben Bradlee, 5/1/1981). Autopsy photographer John Stringer said he remembered the pathologists contacting Dallas and learning of the throat wound while they were still in the morgue (ARRB MD 19, HSCA report on a 8/17/1977 interview with Stringer [text]; ARRB MD 227, report on the ARRB's 4/8/1996 interview with Stringer; Stringer's ARRB deposition, 7/16/1996 [text] [audio]). So did radiologist John Ebersole (Ebersole's 3/9/1978 interview by Gil Delaney, Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy by David S. Lifton, Chapter 23; ARRB MD 60, Ebersole's HSCA testimony, 3/11/1978 [text] [audio]; Ebersole's 12/2/1992 interview by David Mantik, Murder in Dealey Plaza: What We Know Now that We Didn't Know Then about the Death of JFK, edited by James H. Fetzer, Appendix E [audio]). Likewise, William Manchester wrote in his 1967 book The Death of a President: "Commander James J. Humes, Bethesda’s chief of pathology, telephoned Perry in Dallas shortly after midnight, and clinical photographs were taken to satisfy all the Texas doctors who had been in Trauma Room No. 1".

Humes was never totally clear whether he considered a bullet passage in the throat prior to his phone call with Perry (WC Vol. 2, p. 347, Humes WC testimony, 3/16/1964 [text]); HSCA Vol. 7, p. 243, 9/16/1977 HSCA interview with Humes and Boswell [text] [audio]; HSCA Vol. 1, p. 323, Humes HSCA testimony, 9/7/1978 [text]; Humes ARRB deposition, 2/13/1996 [text]). Autopsy assistant Dr. J. Thornton Boswell claimed they deduced this DURING the body examination, based on their observation of bruising on the right lung and pleural cavity (Baltimore Sun, 11/25/1966, Richard H. Levine [2nd print]; ARRB MD 26, HSCA report on 8/17/1977 interview with Boswell [text]; Boswell's 3/30/1994 interview by Gary Aguilar [audio, partial]; Boswell's ARRB deposition, 2/13/1996 [text]). Dr. Pierre Finck, the assisting forensic pathologist, claimed the defect in the throat was overlooked as a tracheotomy during their whole time in the morgue (ARRB MD 28, Reports From LtCol Finck to Gen. Blumberg (1/25/65 and 2/1/65); Finck's Shaw trial testimony, 2/24-2/25/1969 [text]; ARRB MD 30, Finck's HSCA testimony, 3/11/1978 [text] [audio]; JAMA, 10/7/1992). Finck's version of the story is the most suspect. Finck said he examined the defect in the throat and found no sign of a bullet passage, and yet the autopsy protocol and statements of Dr. Humes indicate that pre-mortem bruising was observed on the strap muscles beside the trachea, in addition to the bruising on the right lung and pleura (WC D 77 [text]; WC Vol. 2, p. 347, 3/16/1964 Humes WC testimony [text]). Also, the autopsy photographs (NSFW) show what may be a partial bullet hole in the skin around the trach incision, as noted in the 1968 Clark Panel report (ARRB MD 59 [text]) and the HSCA Medical Panel Report (HSCA Vol. 7, p. 93).

Numerous other witnesses indicated that a bullet passage in the throat was discussed on the night of the autopsy – including pallbearer George Barnum (Barnum's 11/29/1963 statement, 8/20/1979 interview by David S. Lifton, Best Evidence), Admiral/Dr. Calvin Galloway (Arlen Specter, report on 3/11/1964 interview [page 1] [page 2]; HSCA 180-10079-0460, HSCA report on 3/17/1978 interview with Galloway [text]), Jim Snyder/Robert Richter of CBS (ARRB MD 16, 1/10/1967 CBS memo), mortician Tom Robinson (ARRB MD 63, HSCA interview, 1/12/1977 [text] [audio]; ARRB MD 180, ARRB report on 6/21/1996 interview), Lieutenant Richard Lipsey (HSCA interview, 1/18/1978 [transcript] [audio]; ARRB MD 87 [text]), and laboratory technician James Jenkins (9/23/1979 interview by David S. Lifton, Best Evidence; 4/6/1991 panel discussion [Video, 58:18]).

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  • 7 months later...

I wonder why the researchers haven't spoken out more about how Kennedy's body should be dig up and given another autopsy. Everyone agrees the first autopsy was inadequate, and that is legal precedent. Even if the body tissues were deteriorated, just studying the bones and dust would help to clarify a lot of things.

Edited by Micah Mileto
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