The newest in anaesthetic: Chloroform! Why Ether is no longer an Option.

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The newest in anaesthetic: Chloroform! Why Ether is no longer an Option.

Post by SteelChime on Tue Aug 25, 2015 1:04 pm

The experience of surgery with newly found pain relief

In the early 1800s the most important talents a surgeon could possess were speed and accuracy. Surgeons were famed for their speed, particularly in amputation. As there was still no effective anaesthetic, they had to perform their procedures quickly and were limited to external tumours, amputation and trephining. The development of new anaesthetic gases changed the experience of surgery for patient and surgeon. With the patient rendered unconscious, surgery could become more invasive and this also gave the surgeon the opportunity to be both slower and more methodical. The anaesthetic gas ether was first used in 1846 but was soon replaced by chloroform, which was originally used to relieve the pain of childbirth.


Chloroform is a colourless liquid, first discovered almost simultaneously in 1831 by scientists in three different countries: Samuel Guthrie in the United States, Eugene Soubeiran (1797-1858) in France and Justus von Liebig in Germany.

Inhaling vapours from chloroform can cause dizziness, sleepiness and unconsciousness. It was first used as an anaesthetic by the Edinburgh obstetrician James Young Simpson, experimenting on himself and some friends. He quickly realised its value for reducing the pain of childbirth.

There was some resistance to this use of anaesthesia from within the Church, which insisted the pain of childbirth was ordained by God. However, when Queen Victoria allowed John Snow to use chloroform for the birth of two of her children, in 1853 and 1857, it became a popular choice for the next 50 years.

While chloroform was certainly viewed as an important innovation for anaesthetics in surgery and childbirth, it also gained a rather more sinister reputation, becoming associated with abductions, murders, rapes and robbery. Even the medical profession was not immune from accusations of the misuse of chloroform - doctors were accused of molesting female patients who were under its influence.

While Chloroform is the newest form of Anaesthetic, Ether is classified as   POISON and should no longer be used on patients. It is also prohibited that  "Ether Frolics" (parties where medical students use Ether as a recreational drug to be drank or inhaled) take place on university property or disciplinary actions will be taken.

The British government had worked hard to prevent the illegal distillation of alcohol, but ether was a legal substitute. Like alcohol, it was sold in pubs. It was also available from shops, and groups of women would hold ether parties in their houses. From 1890 the sale of ether was strictly limited in Ireland by the British government after it was classified as a poison. By the 1840s, most surgeons used chloroform instead of ether.

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