By Stephanie Snow
Inhalational anaesthesia was once the 1st scientific and medical strategy to develop into a sound technique of soreness reduction. Its advent to drugs in 1846 sparked some of the most excessive public debates of the interval. It challenged spiritual rules and at its heart posed one in all medicine's primary questions: probability as opposed to good thing about scientific intervention. This publication explains how the creation of anaesthesia intertwines with a large choice of alternative 19th century clinical and cultural matters: the starting to be elitism of surgical procedure, the rising professionalism of medication, the preferred and innovative tradition of technological know-how and the secularization of society.
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Extra info for Operations without Pain: The Practice and Science of Anaesthesia in Victorian Britain (Science, Technology and Medicine in Modern History)
The dispute which broke out focused on the key area of contention: were the effects real or imagined? The evidence used by opponents such as Wakely, and the surgeon Robert Liston, drew on Marshall Hall’s theory of reflex action. They argued that if Wombell had been insensible to the operation, his limb should have shown a reflex jerk at the point when the sciatic nerve was cut. 144 Despite such intellectual controversies, many surgeons, who perceived the pain of surgery to be Bentham’s ‘inherent evil’, were open to experimenting with mesmeric anaesthesia.
53 But in 1800, it was a means that they did not believe they possessed. Nor too was the social context conducive of further explorations into nitrous oxide gas. 57 Beddoes had not moderated his radical views since leaving Oxford; for him, medicine, society and politics were interdependent and the new gas chemistry was redolent of the ‘perfectibility’ of society. Burke argued that such claims were not only false, but most dangerously threatened the moral basis of humanity. 58 Chemistry was not the only area of concern.
The loss of common feeling, – anaesthesia, is but a form of palsy, and in it wounds give no pain. If this condition can be induced temporarily by art, we of necessity enable persons to undergo surgical operations without suffering. 153 Yet, despite the receptivity of British doctors to the artificial suspension of sensibility, modern anaesthesia did not emerge from this milieu. For the twist in the tale we turn to America, to gas sniffing, money, teeth and pain. ‘Teeth extracted without pain’ The fact that it was an American dentist – William Morton – who established the innovation of ether, rather than a surgeon, has attracted little historical attention and has been related as one of the odd quirks of the history of anaesthesia.