World Anaesthesia Day is also known as National Anaesthesia Day or Ether Day and is celebrated across the globe on 16th October annually. It marks the first successful demonstration of diethyl ether anaesthesia that was administered on 16th October 1846.
The event ranks as one of the most significant day in the history of medicine. It took place in the operating theatre at the Massachusetts General Hospital. It is home to the Harvard School of Medicine and the operating theatre is now known as the Ether Dome. The use of anaesthesia led to surgical treatments now taking place without the patients having to undergo the pain of surgical treatments such as operations, and stitches.
Since the year 1903, special events are organised around the world to celebrate this achievement. The World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists commemorates this day on a grand scale with over 134 societies that represent anaesthesiologists from more than 150 countries taking part in the celebrations.
As late as 1839, the idea of a painless surgery was considered far-fetched and the new surgeons were from the very beginning trained to become indifferent to the screams and the cries of the patients undergoing the treatment. Some of the ways to make the procedure pain-free at the time, though they might seem ridiculous as of now, included:
- Beating them on the head so that they lose consciousness and the surgery could be performed.
- Strangling them till they suffocate and lose conscious and the surgery would be performed.
- Alcohol overdose to get the patient really drunk.
- And the painful method included around 10 different people holding down the screaming patient as the surgeon cuts her/him open.
It was finally in 1846 that dentist William T. Morton, stepped in front of a live audience of physicians and surgeons at the Massachusetts General Hospital and made the patient inhale a ‘miracle drug’. The drug was ether that he had brought with him in a roughly constructed glass vaporizer. Much to everyone’s astonishment, it was for the first time in history that a patient underwent a surgery without any pain. Even though the patient was aware of the surgery he had no sensation or pain. This was a historic moment that introduced anaesthesia to the medical world. And thus, we have 16th October as the World Anaesthesia Day!
Now that we are 150 years ahead of this discovery, anaesthesia has evolved and achieved acute precision. It is used not just to attain a loss of consciousness but also for muscle relaxation, pain relief and stable cardiac vitals. Anaesthesia has become an integral part of the preparations for any surgery along with the surgical instruments, medications and scrubs.
Access to safe anaesthesia is a human right and not a luxury. The commemoration of this historical day is also a way to raise awareness about this essential drug and make it reach all corners of the world. So this World Anaesthesia Day let’s take a pledge to raise awareness about this drug and ensure its usage in all clinics and hospitals.