In one of the earliest passages
of Scripture, we see a clue to understanding the importance of sleep (really
putting nerves to sleep) as it were in sparing someone pain. Such knowledge is
resident on the pages of Scripture thousands of years before the founding of
the field of anesthesiology.
“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh instead thereof. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.”
Genesis 2: 21 – 22
All along, Scripture has contained the pattern for how to
bring about pain relief. The Hebrew word used here for “deep sleep” is “tardemah”
in the original text – it goes well beyond normal sleep and is meant to convey
a “trance-like state” or “sleep that is preventative of pain.”
It was only in the mid 1800’s that science began to
understand the place anesthesia (and performing surgery while the patient ‘was
under’) could have on patient well-being. Physicians and dentists alike began
to see the value of putting nerves to sleep so as to prevent pain. Most likely
a doctor out of Georgia, Crawford Long, was the first to use ether gas to put
his patients under while performing surgery. This would have been in 1841.
Imagine the agony experienced going through an operation fully awake.
In 1845 a dentist out of
Connecticut, Horace Wells, used Nitrous Oxide while performing tooth
extractions. The next year, a Boston dentist named William Morton used “ether”
to perform the first public surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Another
physician, Charles Jackson, claimed to have advised Morton and it ended in a
legal case. Ultimately the US Congress credited this new approach of painless
surgery to Morton.
Relevant Pioneer Quote
It is interesting how many of the
great scientists of history, were ‘Bible-believing’ Christians. Dr. James
Simpson was responsible for the discovery of chloroform’s anesthetic qualities.
He was the president of Britain’s Royal Medical Society in the 1800’s and was
the personal physician to the Queen. Eventually, he was knighted by the Queen.
He cited Genesis 2: 21 – 22 in
defense of anesthesia, when arguing with some ill-informed clergy who believed
it was God’s will for people to suffer. Simpson is considered the Father of Obstetric
Dr. Simpson became a believer in the Lord
Jesus after the tragic death of Jamie, his 15-year-old son.
“Sir James Simpson was once … interviewed by a newspaper man who asked, “Sir, what do you consider your greatest discovery?” Sir James replied, “My greatest discovery was when I discovered I was a sinner in the sight of God.’ The newspaper man tried again: “Thank you, Sir James. And now would you please tell me your second greatest discovery”. “By all means,” replied that great Christian. “My second greatest discovery was when I discovered that Jesus died for a sinner like me.”.”