Given that scenario, the question is whether
Lincoln would have been able to return to office, said a doctor and
historian who spoke Friday at an annual University of
Maryland School of Medicine conference on the deaths of historic
While the conference has traditionally
re-examined the deaths of historic figures to determine if the
diagnosis of the time was correct, this year's event asked if Lincoln
could have been saved and what impact that would have had.
Dr. Thomas Scalea, the physician in chief at
the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center, said brain
injuries are unpredictable but Lincoln would have stood a good
chance of surviving.
"It's a little hard to know, but I think it's a
fair statement to say this is not necessarily a fatal injury; he
doesn't have to die," said Scalea, who explained how Lincoln
would have been treated at his center, the world's first dedicated
Lincoln died within 10 hours of being shot in
the head at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865. If modern methods
could have saved the 16th president, he may have also retained his
cognitive abilities because the fatal shot did not damage the
frontal lobes of Lincoln's brain, which are responsible for
language, emotion and problem solving, Scalea said.
However, Lincoln would have faced months of
recovery before he could have returned to office, and whether he
would have been able to communicate is unclear, the surgeon said.
U.S. presidential historian Steven Lee Carson
said Lincoln's secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, who made a number of
important decisions the day after the assassination, would likely
have played a greater role if Lincoln had survived.
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Vice President Andrew Johnson would not
automatically have taken charge had Lincoln lived because the 25th
Amendment, which deals with the transfer of power when a president
is incapacitated, was not in place until after the Kennedy
assassination. The decision as to who took charge was handled on a
case-by-case basis until then, Carson said.
For example, Woodrow Wilson's wife essentially
took over when her husband fell ill, Carson said.
Johnson, who took office after Lincoln's death,
was the only Southern senator not to leave office upon secession.
Lincoln had put him on the presidential ticket as a symbol of unity,
but Johnson was a southern Democrat who was not sympathetic to
Lincoln's Republican party or to helping the newly freed slaves,
said Carson, who also spoke at the conference.
If Stanton had continued in Lincoln's place,
the country "would have been a better and more just nation,
especially on race matters, in a far quicker fashion," Carson said.
Johnson eventually tried to replace Stanton, an
abolitionist and a close friend of Lincoln, which led to the attempt
by Republicans to remove Johnson from office by impeachment.
Previous conferences have examined the deaths
of Alexander the Great, Mozart, Beethoven, Edgar Allan Poe and
others. This year's event was part of the School of Medicine's
bicentennial celebration and the annual reunion of its Medical
from file received from AP
Digital; article by Alex Dominguez, Associated Press writer]