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"London Medical Gazette (LMG): "Animal magnetism superseded--discovery of a new hypnopoietic.""

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London Medical Gazette
(18 December 1846): 1085-86.

PDF from photocopy, courtesy of Taubman Medical Library, University of Michigan.

We learn on the authority of a highly respectable physician of Boston, U. S., that a Dr. [William] Morton, a surgeon-dentist of that city, has discovered a process whereby in a few minutes the most profound sleep may be induced, during which teeth may be extracted, and severe operations performed, without the patient being sensible of pain, or having any knowledge of the proceedings of the operator. The process simply consists in causing the patient to inhale the vapour of ether for a short period, and the effect is to produce complete insensibility, -- or, as the writer says, intoxication. We quote the following case on the same respectable authority:-- "I took my daughter last week to Martin’s [sic] rooms to have a tooth extracted. She inhaled the (vapour of) ether about one minute, and feel [sic] asleep instantly in the chair. A molar tooth was then extracted without the slightest movement of a muscle or fibre. In another minute she awoke, smiled, and said the tooth was not out, had felt no pain, nor the slightest knowledge of extraction. It was an entire illusion"

* * * The facts are here so candidly stated that any one may put the new process to the test of experiment. Dr. Morton has made no mystery of his proceedings, like the tribe of hypnotic quacks who have lately [1085/1086] perambulated the country. Some caution must, however, be observed in employing the vapour of ether in the way suggested. Ether is a strong narcotic, and its vapour speedily produces complete lethargy and coma: it is exceedingly volatile, and rapidly absorbed and diffused through the body, especially when brought into contact with the extensive surface of the air-cells of the lungs. In one case it has destroyed life, and in another caused apoplexy. Thus an individual may not awaken so readily as the young lady whose case we have here quoted.* (* We have since learned, from another quarter, that the respiration of the vapour in the manner described has been tried in numerous cases without the occurrence of any accident.) It must be regarded as producing a state of temporary poisoning in which the nervous system is most powerfully affected; and, as in concussion or narcotic poisoning, sensibility may be so destroyed that operations which in the healthy state would occasion severe pain, may be performed without any consciousness on the part of the patient. The respectability of the source from which we derive our information prevents us from doubting that the writer has accurately described what he saw. The awakening exactly one minute after the operation must of course be regarded as an accidental circumstance, depending on the dose of ethereal vapour inhaled. One statement, however, appears to us to require explanation. We can understand the production of insensibility and the temporary loss of consciousness from the effects of ether; but we do not comprehend how, when the individual was perfectly roused to consciousness, there could be the slightest doubt as to whether the tooth was in or out of the mouth! All who have undergone this operation know that from the imperfect sense of touch possessed by the tongue, that the gap occasioned by the loss of a tooth appears about ten times as large as it really is. Then, again, we can believe that no pain might be felt during the operation; but how can any narcotic annihilate pain in futuro, when its effects on the nervous system have entirely ceased? Ordinary sleep often produces a temporary loss of sensation of pain: but this immediately returns in the waking state.

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