I want to tell you a story. It may seem like a fairy tale. In many ways, it is. It is a journey that zigzags across all the corners of the globe over dozens of centuries, featuring saints and sceptics, sleeping chickens and screaming men.
This, my dear friends, is the story of how your stay in the hospital became painless.
'Pain was, and would always be an inevitable part of surgery.'
- Liston's 1842 edition of Elements of Surgery.
As late as 1842, Liston's book on surgery made sure that budding surgeons learned this by heart and became indifferent to the screams and cries of the patients as they were cut upon. In the centuries prior to that, man had not given up hope though their methods left a lot to be desired. Today, it may seems ridiculous to even think of such options but once upon a time, to make sure the patient did not scream while surgery was being performed, the options available to the surgeon were very different. To sample a few :
- The patient was strangled till he suffocated and lost unconsciousness... and surgery was performed.
- The patient was beaten on the head with a club till he lost consciousness... and surgery was performed.
- Hallucinogenic drugs were force-fed to the patient till he had no idea which universe he was in... and surgery was performed.
- The patient was given alcohol till he was really drunk... and well, you know the rest.
- 'Refrigeration' where ice was placed along the places to be cut till it was numb. Effective... till you ran out of ice. Would have really helped to have a refrigerator back in the 13th century, I guess.
- The popular 'Ten people held the screaming man' while the surgeon cuts him open.