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In a paper that attracted wide publicity last year Molina-Sosa et al.1 reported the case of a Mexican woman who had performed a caesarean section on herself. An internet search had yielded no similar cases; however, I have found two instances of female autosurgery from earlier times.
The first case, reported in the Thessalonica newspaper Hermes in 1879,2 was a woman from Radovo who, after being in labour for 48 hours with unbearable pains, took her husband's razor, opened her abdomen and uterus and removed the baby alive. Then, holding with her hands the edges of the incision, she asked her neighbour to stitch and close them, providing her with a needle and a silk thread. Mother and baby survived in excellent health. The other case was not of a caesarean section but of vaginal hysterectomy. Reported by Percival Willoughby in his Observations in Midwifery (1670)3 it concerned a woman who, when lifting a bucket of coal, had experienced a sudden prolapse of the uterus. Many times she put the 'mass' back in place, only for it to return. One evening, abandoning all hope, she went into the garden with a kitchen knife and cut it away, along with 'some of the fleshy part of the bladder', subsequently fainting from blood loss. Though she lived for several years thereafter, she was incontinent, 'her water always coming night and day insensibly dribbling from her'.3