The Chloroformist, by Christine Ball

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

I’m going to preface my thoughts about Christine Ball’s fascinating story of The Chloroformist who brought anaesthesia to the operating table with a confession: I am brave about snakes, spiders and the dentist, but although everybody else has their cataracts done with a local anaesthetic, I didn’t.  I got myself in such a state about the mere idea of being conscious while they messed about with my eyes, that they had to knock me out properly to do it.  I felt even more ashamed of myself when I read in the first chapter, the list of procedures performed without anaesthetic during the chloroformist’s apprenticeship :

For the rest of the summer, young Joseph Clover followed Dr Lubbock around Norfolk.  Together, they excised skin tumours, opened abscesses, divided contracted tendons, tapped hydrocoeles, amputated toes and removed a cataract.  All these procedures were performed on conscious, terrified patients who were held tightly…

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