Ether Follies

I’ve never had surgery that required I be put under but one of my paranoid fears is that should I ever have to I’ll be one of those who seems unconscious and can’t move but is feeling and hearing everything. Kind of a horror story scenario. And, of course, they steal my thoughts too while I am incapacitated (the good ones that I don’t tell anyone) along with my PIN codes.

The New York Times has an interesting interview with Dr. Emery Neal Brown, a professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School entitled “Call It a Reversible Coma, Not Sleep.” One of the highlights on the original development of anaesthesia in 1846:

Apparently, there was a social practice in that era called “ether follies.” People got together and they sniffed ether. At one of these, someone fell and cut himself, but felt no pain. And the story got out, which led a Boston dentist to start experimenting with ether for painless oral surgery. He brought the idea to the great surgeon John Collins Warren, and together they used it in an operation here to remove a neck tumor. “Gentlemen, this is no humbug,” Dr. Warren declared after the successful procedure, meaning that this was the real thing and that it was going to change medicine. Before that, surgery was mostly butchery. The most successful surgeon was the one who could lop off a limb quickest. To this day, most inhaled anesthetics are ether. They’ve been embellished a bit, but they are basically ether.