Monsters and the case of L. Joseph: André Feil's thesis on the origin of the Klippel-Feil syndrome and a social transformation of medicine

Evgenii Belykh, Kashif Malik, Isabelle Simoneau, Kaan Yagmurlu, Ting Lei, Daniel D. Cavalcanti, Vadim A. Byvaltsev, Nicholas Theodore, Mark C. Preul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

André Feil (1884-1955) was a French physician best recognized for his description, coauthored with Maurice Klippel, of patients with congenital fusion of cervical vertebrae, a condition currently known as Klippel-Feil syndrome. However, little is known about his background aside from the fact that he was a student of Klippel and a physician who took a keen interest in describing congenital anomalies. Despite the relative lack of information on Feil, his contributions to the fields of spinal disease and teratology extended far beyond science to play an integral role in changing the misguided perception shrouding patients with disfigurements, defects, deformities, and so-called monstrous births. In particular, Feil's 1919 medical school thesis on cervical abnormalities was a critical publication in defying long-held theory and opinion that human "monstrosities," anomalies, developmental abnormalities, and altered congenital physicality were a consequence of sinful behavior or a reversion to a primitive state. Indeed, his thesis on a spinal deformity centering on his patient, L. Joseph, was at the vanguard for a new view of a patient as nothing less than fully human, no matter his or her physicality or appearance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE3
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Volume41
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

Keywords

  • André Feil
  • History of neurosurgery
  • Klippel-Feil syndrome
  • Maurice Klippel
  • Monsters
  • Physical deformity
  • Spinal ankyloses
  • Spinal fusion
  • Spine deformity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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