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Going Under: The Mystery of Anaesthesia

Listen to Going Under: The Mystery of Anaesthesia

Photo of Amita Kirpalani, Kate Cole-Adams and Kate Leslie

Amita Kirpalani, Kate Cole-Adams and Kate Leslie — Photo: Helen Withycombe

The first uses of modern medical anaesthetic, back in the 1840s, represented a huge advancement in medicine. But as the technology has advanced, we've become increasingly blase about the whole notion of going under. There's even something a bit cavalier about the language we use – 'general'; 'local' – to describe different categories of anaesthetic.

In her new book on the subject, journalist Kate Cole-Adams looks at the facts, and explores the enigma of this mysterious medical practice. In Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness, she interweaves scientific and historical research with personal experience to present a haunting meditation on memory, paralysis and consciousness. She's joined by leading anaesthetist and pain-management researcher Kate Leslie.

How common is it for patients to ‘wake up’ during surgery? Is pain still pain if you can’t feel it? And what do we know about consciousness, anyway? We look into these questions, and more, in this riveting discussion on memory, pain and administered oblivion. Hosted by Amita Kirpalani.

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