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Anesthesiology. 1985 Apr;62(4):493-501.

The secularization of pain.


After Morton's demonstration in the Ether Dome of the Massachusetts General Hospital, anesthesia for surgery was accepted around the world at a speed unusually fast for any medical or scientific innovation. However, the concept of surgical anesthesia had been rejected on four occasions during the preceding 40 years. The rapid acceptance of anesthesia in 1846 appears to have had a political and social basis as well as medical. Two factors are particularly important. First was a change in the perception of disease and pain; both lost religious connotations and became biologic phenomena as part of a process of secularization that affected all aspects of Western society. Second was the growth of a sense of well-being and progress, which imbued patients and physicians alike with confidence in their ability to control natural processes. During the last half century, pain has remained secular, but the confidence in both progress and the ability to control nature may have diminished.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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