British surgeon Robert Liston (1794-1847). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images).

It takes skill to kill three people with one surgery, and Dr. Robert Liston was one of the most talented surgeons of his time. Liston loved to set records. He could amputate a leg in under two minutes, but even the greats have off days. In one short surgery, Dr. Liston killed three people in a few short minutes of work. This is the story of Dr. Liston and his incredible 300% mortality rate procedure.

Before anesthesia, there was Dr. Liston

Dr. Robert Liston was a Scottish surgeon who practiced all over Britain in the early 1800s. He was known for his skill in amputations in a time before anesthesia. Patients were held down by three to four assistants while they writhed and screamed in pain.

It took a steady hand and an even stronger stomach to do what he did. According to Dr. Richard Gordon, a surgeon and medical historian, Liston had the “fastest knife in the West End.” Speed meant less suffering and a higher survival rate… most of the time.

A bloody, shocking show

One fateful day, while Liston was amputating a patient’s leg at the hip, things went a little haywire. As the patient squirmed in pain, Liston slipped and sawed off the fingers of one of his assistants.

An elderly doctor in attendance was standing close to the operating table. When Liston’s knife slipped, it snagged the elderly man’s coat. He must have thought the blood was his, or at least his heart did. The man died of a heart attack on the spot.

I only kill people 300% of the time

That’s 100% down, only 200% to go. On this particular day, the surgical knife must have been contaminated with some extra-nasty bacteria. In a few short days, the patient’s stump and the assistant’s hand became infected. Both died in a matter of days.

At the time of the incident, Liston was an accomplished surgeon with a stellar track record. Thanks to his 300% mortality surgery, he lives in infamy as the most efficient medical assassin of all time.