The book by Kate Cole-Adams, ‘Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion; The Mystery of Consciousness’, provides an engaging and thought-provoking look at the issues surrounding the use of modern-day anaesthetic. It was published in 2017 following the Australian author’s own experience undergoing scoliosis surgery and has been much discussed in the broader community. Click here to listen to an interview of the author on ABC radio RN Life Matters programme.
The book provides an insightful history of anaesthesia and delves into the science of what happens to the brain when a patient is anaesthetized. It also explores the philosophy and ethics of anaesthesia with interviews of patients, leading researchers and anaesthetists. The phenomenon of ‘anaesthetic awareness’ is also discussed in the book, as well as the frequency of such occurrences and which patients are at the highest risk. The author reviews studies of horrifying situations where patients have become aware but unable to communicate under anaesthesia.
The author calls for further examination of anaesthetic awareness, especially since there is still so much that is unknown about what exactly happens to our consciousness when we are anaesthetized. She also advocates for patients being more fulsomely informed by their doctors about anaesthesia and its risks and more involved in decisions about their treatment with anaesthetic.