“I have more morphine than you have pain”

14 06 2015

… said the lecturer to a hypothetical patient during our lecture on kidney stones. He indirectly admonishes our management of pain, an issue that is well studied and one which I had fruitful discussion with Andrew Coggins online. It is extremely satisfying to have a person, screaming and shouting in pain, respond to a good dose of morphine.

So now, I’m at a point in my career where you start taking things for granted. Where, you tend to start seeing things as “work” and the time when you first put your stethoscope to someone’s chest and gushed about being able to hear a heart beat are long gone.

This documentary shakes your out of that complacence and reminds you of the discoveries that changed the course of human history and medicine. How chemists worked hard distilling opium into a reliable morphine and tried it out on their pets, assistants and themselves, about the patients who gladly (and sometimes reluctantly) offered themselves as test subjects. It covers a whole lot of ground from the history of pain management, the surprising butterfly effects triggering(coca cola anyone?) their discoveries and the story of how these drugs eventually got out to the public.

Early on in the documentary, Druin Burch talks about his impressions of an early, failed demonstration of inhaled anesthesia –

“No one had imagined that anesthesia could exist and I think that’s why Wells failed in his demonstration of nitrous oxide because they found the very idea that pain was optional, that pain could be deleted, erased from the world, so intrinsically fraudulent that they were predisposed to reach that conclusion.”

Which makes you wonder, what blind spots might we be having today?

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