Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Medical Evidence Pertaining to the JFK Assassination from the Doctors Who Tried to Save his Life

Nixon was keenly aware that Kennedy’s battle with powerful internal elements had preceded JFK’s demise. After all, governments everywhere have historically faced the reality that the apparatus of state security might have the chief of state in its gun sights – and that it certainly possesses the ability to act – Russ Baker, from his book, “Family of Secrets – The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces that Put it in the White House, and What their Influence Means for America”.

The Warren Commission conclusion that the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, was the work of a lone gunman was based in large part on autopsy evidence pertaining to the two bullet wounds that Kennedy received that day. The autopsy evidence was purported to show that the two bullets that caused those wounds were shot from behind the President – that is, from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository, where evidence placed Lee Harvey Oswald at the time of the shooting.

But that autopsy evidence was starkly contradicted by testimony of the doctors and nurses who attempted to save Kennedy’s life at Parkland Memorial Hospital shortly following the shooting.

The Parkland doctors and one nurse characterized the throat wound as an entrance wound – which would mean that the bullet that caused it came from the front, in the general area of the grassy knoll, rather than from the Texas School Book Depository behind the President. The autopsy doctors did not see the throat wound in its original state because it had been surgically obliterated in the effort to save the President’s life.

The fatal head wound was judged to be an exit wound by both the Parkland doctors and the Bethesda autopsy doctors. But the two groups of doctors saw (according to their descriptions) the head wound in a very different location in Kennedy’s head. Assuming it to be an exit wound, as both groups of doctors agreed, if it was located where the Parkland doctors said they saw it (in the back or back-right of the head), that means that the bullet that caused it came from the front. Conversely, an exit wound where the autopsy doctors described it would have been consistent with a bullet from behind.

So that leaves two basic possibilities: Either the Parkland doctors and nurses were way off base in their observations and testimony, or else the President’s wounds were surgically altered prior to the autopsy.

This post is my second of a three part series on the JFK assassination. In this post, based mostly on David Lifton’s book, “Best Evidence – Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy”, I discuss the medical evidence as testified to by the Parkland doctors and nurses, while pointing out some of the major differences between what they said they saw and what the autopsy doctors said they saw. Then in my third and final post on this subject, I’ll discuss additional evidence that the President’s body was surgically altered between the time that it left Parkland Hospital and the time that it arrived in the autopsy room, along with a critique of Vincent Bugliosi’s critique of Lifton’s book.


The throat wound was made by the first of the two (or possibly more) bullets that struck Kennedy. It was not the fatal wound.

The physicians who performed the autopsy did not see this wound in its original state, because it was obliterated by one of the Parkland doctors, Dr. Malcolm Perry, when he made a surgical incision over it in order to perform a tracheotomy. Therefore, only the doctors and nurses at Parkland hospital had a view of this wound in its original state.

All of the Parkland doctors and the nurse who offered an opinion on the throat wound characterized it as an entrance wound.

It is also important to note that the “single bullet theory” depends upon the throat wound being an exit wound. That is because the “single bullet theory” alleges that a single bullet hit Kennedy in the back, exited the front of his neck, and then continued on to hit Governor John Connally (sitting in the front seat of the car, in front of Kennedy) in the back, wrist and leg.

Characterization as an entrance wound by the Parkland doctors

Here are the descriptions of the throat wound by the doctors and one nurse at Parkland hospital:

Dr. Malcolm Perry
Lifton describes the initial news accounts of the opinions of the Parkland doctors, particularly Dr. Malcolm Perry:

On November 22, 1963, millions of Americans heard radio and TV networks report that Dr. Malcolm Perry, a Dallas Physician who was with the President in the emergency room when he died, said there was a bullet entrance wound situated on the front of Kennedy’s neck.

Because Perry later changed his mind about the direction of the bullet, after receiving a visit from the Secret Service, and denied what he had originally said, Lifton goes to much effort to document Perry’s initial accounts. Here is some of that documentation:

UPI report at 3:10 p.m. CST on 11-22 (1):

Dr. Malcolm Perry, thirty-four, said “there was an entrance wound below the Adam’s apple.”

Tom Wicker with the New York Times (2):

Dr. Malcolm Perry, an attending surgeon, and Dr. Kemp Clark, chief of neurosurgery at Parkland Hospital, gave more details. Mr. Kennedy was hit by a bullet in the throat, just below the Adam’s apple, they said. This wound had the appearance of a bullet’s entry…

Dallas News reporter John Geddie (3):

Dr. Perry said, “in the lower portion of Kennedy’s neck, right in the front, there was a small puncture.”

Lifton explains why he felt confidant that Perry had not been misquoted, as he later claimed:

Another factor reinforcing my conviction that Dr. Perry had not been misquoted was his reaction to the news that the shots were all fired from a building located behind the motorcade. Faced with that fact, Dr. Perry did not change his opinion about the wound; on the contrary, he simply assumed that President Kennedy was turned toward the rear when the bullet struck… He told the Boston Globe’s medical editor, Herbert Black (4):

“It may have been that the President was looking up or sideways with his head thrown back when the bullet or bullets struck him”.

However, we know from the Zapruder film that the President’s head was in fact facing forward when the fatal bullet struck his head.

Dr. Ronald Jones
In his Warren Commission deposition, Dr. Jones explained why the doctors considered the throat wound to be an entrance wound:

The hole was very small and relatively clean-cut as you would see in a bullet that is entering rather than exiting from a patient. (5)

Many of the doctors initially thought that the throat and head wound were caused by the same bullet, entering through the throat and exiting through the back of the head. Dr. Jones explained to the Warren Commission his initial thoughts:

With no history as to the number of times that the President had been shot or knowing the direction from which he had been shot, and seeing the wound in the midline of the neck (which Jones characterized as an entrance wound in his medical report) and what appeared to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull, the only speculation that I could have as … to how this could occur with a single wound (bullet) would be that it would enter the anterior neck and possibly strike a vertebral body and then change its course and exit in the region of the posterior portion of the head… if I accounted for it (both wounds) on the basis of one shot, that would have been the way I (would have) accounted for it. (6)

Dr. Paul Peters
Dr. Peters testified at the Warren Commission Hearings (7):

We saw the wound of entry in the throat and noted the large occipital wound, and it is a known fact that high velocity missiles often have a small wound of entrance and a large wound of exit…

Dr. Charles Baxter
Lifton notes that despite Arlen Specter’s aggressive efforts to get the Parkland physicians to equivocate on their characterization of the throat wound, some of them argued back against him. Dr. Baxter, for example, noted that such a wound (to have been an exit wound) would be “unusual… ordinarily there would have been a rather large wound of exit.” (8)

Dr. Charles Carrico
On the afternoon of November 22, Dr. Charles Carrico described the throat wound in his medical report as “a small penetrating wound of the ant. (front) neck in the lower 1/3”. (9)

Nurse Margaret Henchliffe
Margarette Hencliffe testified to the Warren Commission (10):

It was just a little hole in the middle of his neck… about as big around as the end of my little finger… that looked like an entrance bullet hole…

Lifton describes Ms. Henchliffe’s exchange with Arlen Specter:

When asked by Specter if it could “have been an exit bullet hole,” Nurse Henchliffe insisted that she had “never seen an exit bullet hole… that looked like that… It was just a small wound and wasn’t jagged like most of the exit bullet wounds that I have seen…”

Immediately following this exchange, attorney Specter began a series of questions designed to establish that Nurse Henchliffe did not have qualifications to render such an opinion. Nurse Henchliffe answered that her experience was limited to five years in the ER at Parkland Memorial Hospital and, more generally, her twelve years as a registered nurse. “We take care of a lot of bullet wounds down there – I don’t know how many a year,” she testified (11).

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