By Matthew Baker
Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College from Hunter College Department of Economics
During the U. S. Civil War (1861-65) surgeons performed a vast number of surgical procedures such as amputations, resections, excisions, and bullet extractions. The efficacy of wartime surgery has been the subject of continuing debate since the start of the war. One reason debate continues is the dearth of empirical evidence on the (in)effectiveness of surgery. To shed light on the subject, I analyze a data set created by Dr. Edmund Andrews, a Civil war surgeon with the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. Dr. Andrews’s data can be rendered into an observational data set on surgical intervention and recovery, with controls for wound location and severity. The data also admits instruments for the surgical decision. My analysis suggests that Civil War surgery was effective, and increased the probability of survival of the typical wounded soldier, with average treatment effect of 0.25-0.28.
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