The purpose of this Post is to focus on trying to understand the facts in relation to just one thing about Fitzpatrick: his cause of death. Justin Corfields Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia (2003) says that he died of cirrhosis of the liver, and because of that, for a very long time, quite reasonably, Fitzpatrick was believed to have been an alcoholic when he died. This claim was repeated as recently as 2017 in Grantlee Kiezas biography “Mrs Kelly”.
Cirrhosis of the liver is almost universally caused by alcoholism. The statement that Fitzpatrick had cirrhosis of the liver fitted in well with the claims made at Ellen Kellys trial, and by virtually every Kelly biographer since then, that when he was in the police, Fitzpatrick had a problem with drink, and indeed they claim that when he went to the Kelly shanty at 11 Mile creek in April 1878, he was drunk – ‘fortified with drink’ is the typical way this is presented. The narrative about Fitzpatrick being a drunk has been a standard element of the Kelly story from the beginning.
However, there is a huge problem with the mainstay of the ‘alcoholic Fitzpatrick’ narrative: his death certificate does NOT say he died of cirrhosis of the liver. For some unknown reason, Corfield completely misread the death certificate, which doesn’t mention cirrhosis of the liver anywhere. What it records is that Fitzpatrick died of “Sarcoma of the Liver, invading stomach, disseminated”. It also records “ascites, constriction of, and adherence of appendix (appendicectomy)” and “cardiac exhaustion”. In laymen’s terms, it says that he died of the complications of a type of liver cancer.
When I first drew everyone’s attention to this mistake several years ago, the die-hard Kelly fanatics refused to accept that the death certificate no longer supported the claim that Fitzpatrick was an alcoholic. Instead they changed tack and insisted that the presence of ascites on its own was proof of alcoholism, because ascites is often what alcoholics suffer from. More recently these medically untrained Kelly fanatics also tried to claim that a liver sarcoma can be caused by alcohol – but this is untrue. What these people have crucially failed to understand is that in alcoholics, ascites doesn’t appear by itself – it can only develop if cirrhosis develops first..In fact, ascites NEVER develops all by itself : there has to be something that gives rise to it, and this can be cirrhosis, or cancers and sarcomas, inflammation of many kinds and all sorts of other things.
That is why the presence of ascites on its own CANNOT be cited as evidence in support of the argument that Fitzpatrick was an alcoholic. Its important to understand this point, so here it is in detail: when ascites IS associated with alcoholism, the sequence of events is that FIRST OF ALL there is liver damage called cirrhosis. Cirrhosis makes the liver scarred and shrunken and blood flow through it becomes restricted. NEXT, when the cirrhosis is bad enough, fluid accumulation occurs in the abdomen and is known as ascites. As the disease progresses there is increasing strain on the heart which then begins to fail, as does the liver, and fluid accumulation occurs in other parts of the body as well : this used to be known as ‘dropsy’.
To be very clear – and this one is especially for you Bob McGarrigle and Stuart Rowsell , because your postings on this subject indicate you’re very confused and don’t understand it at all : if ascites is a result of being an alcoholic then cirrhosis MUST be present also. On the other hand, if as was reported on Fitzpatricks death certificate there was ascites but NO cirrhosis, then alcoholism CANNOT be the cause of the ascites, and another cause has to be looked for. That is simply medically established fact and there’s nothing you can do about it.
At Fitzpatricks autopsy, ascites would have been one of the first abnormal things observed, and would have triggered a search for its cause. In Fitzpatrick’s case the liver was not found to be hard, shrunken and small which is what is found with cirrhosis, but instead it was enlarged by a sarcoma – the exact opposite of what would be found in cirrhosis – and the sarcoma was ‘disseminated’ meaning it had spread to involve the stomach and other tissues in the abdomen. These other deposits, known as metastases are not found with cirrhosis: a cirrhotic liver does not spread and invade adjacent structures. But metastases from a tumour do invade adjacent and distant structures and provoke local tissue responses which include the production of the ascites fluid. It should also be mentioned that despite what Stuart Rowsell claims, there is NO KNOWN LINK between alcohol and liver sarcoma. The presence of a liver sarcoma is not in any way an indication of alcoholism.
The autopsy findings listed on the Death Certificate are very clear and consistent. Fitzpatrick died of heart failure which was a secondary effect of the metastatic sarcoma of the liver. Those are the facts and there are no alternate facts. Nothing was found at autopsy which in any way gives support to the notion Fitzpatrick was an alcoholic. For anyone who has read this far, continuing to suggest otherwise is lying: lying is saying something you know not to be true.
In 1924, without the benefit of modern palliative medicine Fitzpatrick likely suffered a miserable lingering death. To claim he died of complications of alcoholism is not just wrong, its utterly without foundation and inhumanly cruel. There is ZERO medical evidence that he was an alcoholic when he died.
Incidentally, for anyone genuinely interested in finding out more of the truth about Fitzpatrick, the argument that he had a problem with drink as a young man is discussed in detail HERE. It’s unfortunate and unfair that the stigma of alcoholism has been attached to him because of Corfield’s careless reading of his death certificate.
People whose interest is in knowing what really happened in the Kelly Outbreak should not promote lies about how Fitzpatrick died. It had nothing to do with alcoholism and there is no evidence anywhere that he was an alcoholic.