A History of Patient Comfort (Part II): Passing Gas (1540-1847)
The story of inhalational anaesthesia leading up to Ether Day is as much about personalities as it is about science. Actually, it’s more about the people than the chemistry. Oxygen, nitrous oxide and ether were each discovered before their use could really be sorted out, not unlike the Internet. The personalities involved included (in alphabetical order) Dr. Gardner Colton, Dr. Crawford Long, Dr. William Morton and Dr. Horace Wells. Their lives often intertwined, sometimes by happenstance, sometimes by design. The end result was the birth of the discipline of anaesthesia, arguably the greatest medical breakthrough ever.
The world of the mid- to late-19th century was a rapidly changing one. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and civilized life as it was known was changing. Cars, planes, electricity and refrigeration were all yet to come, as were microscopy and chemical analysis. No disease could be cured except for smallpox, a fact which was sadly used to the detriment of Native North Americans in 1763 as part of Pontiac’s Rebellion. The Slavery Abolition Act freed the slaves in most of the British Empire in 1833; the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States followed 30 years later. If you were born in North America in 1900, your life expectancy was less than 50 years. The practice of healthcare was advancing toward the systematic, objective system that we recognize today. Medical schools were established in the University of Pennsylvania in 1765 and in Columbia University in 1767. In Canada, McGill University’s medical school opened in 1824. Slowly, the professions of pharmacy, physician and surgeon were separated, although physicians and surgeons were later reattached. The world’s first dental school was opened at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (now the University of Maryland) in 1840, Canada followed suit in 1868 with the establishment of a dental school at the University of Toronto. Before then, dentists were rare in Canada, with extractions being performed by barbers or blacksmiths. Anyone willing to do the work could call themselves a dentist. But the lack of training or standards created barriers to care and trust, as well as hazards to public well-being which pushed Dr. Barnabus Day and some of his colleagues to establish the Ontario Dental Association on July 2, 1867 (kindly not stealing headlines from the Fathers of Confederation). By March 1868, Ontario passed an Act Respecting Dentistry, putting regulatory and licensing powers in the hands of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario. It was the first such Act in the world and provided a model for other jurisdictions to follow.read more Source: Peter J. Nkansah, M.Sc., DDS, Dip. Anaes., Specialist in Dental Anaes. | Oral Health Journal