General Question

talljasperman's avatar

What does it mean to die from consumption?

Asked by talljasperman (21858points) October 5th, 2014

Is it from drinking to much or something else? They say that Mozart died from consumption.

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39 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

“Consumption” is an antiquated word for tuberculosis, or other lung diseases.

JLeslie's avatar

Consumption is an old term that usually meant very ill, often involving the lungs and a severe weakened state. It would be used with TB as @canidmajor pointed out, but also other diseases as well.

I thought Mozart’s particular cause of death was not known.

Interesting. Now my curiousity is peaked.

jaytkay's avatar

@canidmajor is correct, consumption means tuberculosis.

But from this day on consumption should mean alcoholism. That makes more sense

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

It could have been any number of respiratory diseases, generally it was TB

dappled_leaves's avatar

@JLeslie Interestingly, there are loads of ideas about Mozart’s death, though the latest of these doesn’t seem consistent with a “consumption” diagnosis.

But then again, I can’t see a source for that hypothesis anyway. Perhaps rheumatic fever (proposed in 2000) might be considered consistent with a contemporary diagnosis of consumption.

and “piqued my interest”, please!

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, LOL. Peaked.

I was just trying to remember how the movie Amadeus ended? Did he die in the movie? I was just telling my husband I wanted to rent it so he can see it, he would love it and never did. Anyway, my memory is lacking, and I don’t remember what they portrayed in the movie if they did.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, the whole point of Amadeus was to explain the scenario by which Salieri could have caused Mozart’s death. However, the modus operandi was to have him work himself to death… so consumption could easily fit the bill (as far as the fictional film was concerned).

Quakwatch's avatar

The main reason consumption = tuberculosis is that people looked like they were being consumed, or wasted. As it turns out, we have a modern molecular explanation for this, based on the discovery of a cytokine originally called cachectin (since it made mice cachectic) but now known as tumor necrosis factor.

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janbb's avatar

Since this question is in General, I will return to it. It has always been my understanding that consumption was the prior term for tuberculosis since people who die of it in classic novels are always coughing up blood.

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Darth_Algar's avatar

Back in the day basically you ether died of consumption or apoplexy. Those were their two catch-all terms for nearly every kind of natural death.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@janbb Amadeus is probably the biggest reason that people speculate about Mozart’s death. Well, in this century, anyway.

@talljasperman You mention Mozart in your details – how did you hear that he had died of consumption?

Coloma's avatar

It means that Val Kilmer who played Doc Holliday in “Tombstone” broke my heart when he died of the consumption. ( T.B. )

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janbb's avatar

@Darth Algar Apoplexy was a stroke.

janbb's avatar

@Darth_Algar No biggie but you seemed to be implying that they were both some general “catch-all” terms and they were specific diagnoses.

JLeslie's avatar

Many diseases cause wasting. Cancer is a major one and I think that also might have been called consumption. Or, rather people might have been diagnosed with consumption (TB) when it might have been something else. Remember back then it was harder to get a specific diagnosis or a correct underlying cause. If AIDS had existed then it also might have been deemed the person died from consumption.

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie It might have but it wasn’t. I have studied the 19th century and mis-information bothers me. I’m not going to say anything more though.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@janbb

In the days before modern medicine, autopsies, etc those terms were used quite broadly. They might refer to specific things, but people had a tendency to attribute deaths to one or the other simply because they didn’t know any better. Slow sickly death? Must be consumption. Sudden death while sitting at the dinner table? Must be apoplexy.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb I just corrected what I wrote and then saw your post. I’m saying I think the term was used for TB, but there could easily have been misdiagnosis back then.

Edit: I’ll give an example. 30 years ago a bunch of kids in Lyme, CT and surrounding areas had juvenile onset arthritis. Today a bunch of those charts listing that diagnosis we know should have been Lymes Disease. Not all of them, but some of them.

Quakwatch's avatar

It isn’t true that all causes of death in the past were attributed to consumption. This table which was recently republished in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the deaths in Boston in 1811. While ~25% is consumption, and some of those were probably pneumonia and not TB, most medical historians consider consumption as TB.

JLeslie's avatar

@quakwatch So, you agree consumption was not always TB, but are you still saying that consumption in the past was synonymous with TB, just the doctors made a wrong diagnosis at the time, because they simply had fewer diagnostic tools to differentiate between TB and other ailments?

If so, do you think it is accurate to say that consumption is not synonymous with TB, that the historians are incorrect to use the word as only being associated with TB?

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Quakwatch

- Please point out where anyone said “all causes of death”.

- Also the second part of your post pretty much goes along with what @JLeslie and I are saying.

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SavoirFaire's avatar

[Mod Says] Flame off, folks. And let’s not forget that this question is in General, so please stay on topic.

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