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A Letter on Suspended Animation containing experiments shewing that it may be safely employed during operations on animals

A Letter on Suspended Animation
containing experiments shewing that it may be safely employed during operations on animals
Title: A Letter on Suspended Animation containing experiments shewing that it may be safely employed during operations on animals
Release Date: 2018-10-10
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Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, A Letter on Suspended Animation, by HenryHickmanThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and mostother parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms ofthe Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org.  If you are not located in the United States, you'll haveto check the laws of the country where you are located before using this ebook.Title: A Letter on Suspended Animation       containing experiments shewing that it may be safely employed during operations on animalsAuthor: Henry HickmanRelease Date: October 10, 2018  [eBook #58071]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A LETTER ON SUSPENDED ANIMATION***

Transcribed from the 1824 Office of W. Smith edition by DavidPrice, email [email protected]

Pamphlet cover




Shewing that it may be safelyemployed during


With theView of ascertaining


Human Subject,

Addressed to




Member of the Royal MedicalSocieties of Edinburgh, and of
the Royal College of Surgeons, London.


IRONBRIDGE: Printed at the Officeof W. Smith.


At the particular request ofgentlemen of the first rate talent, and who rank high in thescientific world, it is, that the author of the following letteris induced to lay it before the public generally, but moreparticularly his medical brethren; in the hope that some one orother, may be more fortunate in reducing the object of it beyonda possibility of doubt.  It may be said, and with truth,that publications are too frequently the vehicles ofself-adulation, and p.4as such, suffer greatly from the lash of severecriticism; but the author begs to assure his readers, that hisviews are totally different, merely considering it a dutyincumbent on him, (as a medical practitioner, and servant to thepublic), to make known any thing which has not been tried, andwhich ultimately may add something towards the relief of humansuffering, arising from acute disease.  The only method ofobtaining this end, is, in the author’s opinion, candiddiscussion, and liberality of sentiment, which, too commonly is adeficient ingredient in the welfare of so important a profession,productive of serious consequences, not only to the partiesthemselves, but to the patient whose life is entrusted to theircare.  The duty and object, however, of the Physician andSurgeon, is generally considered to be the relief of afellow-creature, by applying certain remedies to the cure ofinternal affections, or cutting some portion of the body, wherebyparts are severed from each other altogether, or relievingcavities of the aggravating cause of disease.  There is notan individual, he believes, p. 5who does not shudder at the idea of anoperation, however skilful the Surgeon, or urgent the case,knowing the great pain that must necessarily be endured; and itis frequently lamented by the operator himself, that somethinghas not been done to tranquilize fear, and diminish the agony ofthe patient.  With this view of the subject then, it is,that he submits his observations and experiments to the public inthe brief form of a letter to a private gentleman of the highesttalent as a man of science, who with others, thought them worthyto be laid before the Royal Society; and if one grain ofknowledge can be added to the general fund, to obtain a means forthe relief of pain, the labours of the author will be amplyrewarded.

p. 7ALETTER, &c.


The facility of suspendinganimation, by carbonic acid gas, and other means, withoutpermanent injury to the subject, having been long known, itappears to me rather singular that no experiments have hithertobeen made with the object of ascertaining whether operationscould be successfully performed upon animals whilst in a torpidstate; and whether wounds inflicted upon them in such a statewould be found to heal with greater or less facility than similarwounds inflicted on the same animals p. 8whilst in possession of all theirpowers of feeling and suffering.  Several circumstances ledme to suspect that wounds made on animals whilst in a torpidstate, would be found, in many cases, to heal most readily; andthe results of some experiments which I have made, lead me tothink that these conjectures are well founded, and to hope thatyou will think the results sufficiently interesting to induce youto do me the honor to lay them before the Royal Society. The experiments were necessarily made upon living animals, butthey were confined to animals previously condemned to death; andas their lives were preserved, and their suffering very slight,(certainly not so great as they would have sustained if theirlives had been taken away by any of the ordinary methods ofkilling such animals) I venture to hope that they, in theaggregate, rather received benefit than injury.  Subjects ofdifferent species were employed, chiefly puppies of a few weeksor months old, and the experiments were often repeated, but asthe results were all uniform, and as my chief object is toattract the attention of other medical men to p. 9the subject, Iwish to do little more than state the general results.

Experiment 1st.  Dogs of abouta month old were placed under a glass cover, surrounded by water,so as to prevent the ingress of atmospheric air, where theirrespiration in a short time ceased, and a part of one ear of eachwas then taken off; there was no hemorrhage, and the wounds werehealed at the end of the third day, without any inflammationhaving taken place, or the Animals having apparently suffered anypain or inconvenience from the operation.

Experiment 2d.  After the sameanimals had fully recovered their powers of feeling, a similarpart of the other ear of each was taken off; a good deal of bloodnow flowed from the wounds, and some degree of inflammationfollowed, and the wounds did not heal till the fifth day.

Experiment 3d.  An experimentwas made similar to No. 1, in every respect, except that thesuspension of animation was p. 10much more suddenly brought on by theagency of sulphuric acid and carbonate of Lime.  The resultsin this case were not so satisfactory; some blood escaped fromthe wounds, and a slight degree of inflammation followed, and thewounds did not heal so rapidly as the first experiment.

Experiment 4th.  Mice, havingbeen confined in a glass tube of a foot long, were renderedinsensible by carbonic acid gas slowly introduced in smallquantities, and one foot from each was taken off; no hemorrhagetook place upon the return of sensation, and the wounds appearedquite healed on the third day, without the animals havingapparently suffered pain, when they were given their liberty.

Experiment 5th.  An adult dogwas rendered insensible by means similar to the preceding, andthe muscles and blood-vessels of one of its legs weredivided.  There was no hemorrhage from the smaller vessels;a ligature which secured the main artery came away on the fourthday, and the animal p.11recovered without having at any period shewn anymaterial symptom of uneasiness.  In this experimentanimation was suspended during seventeen minutes, allowingrespiration occasionally to intervene by means of inflatinginstruments.

Experiment 6th.  A dog wasrendered insensible by the means employed in experiment first,and an incision was made through the muscles of the loin, throughwhich a ligature was passed, and made tight; no appearancewhatever of suffering occurred upon the return of animation, nortill the following day, when inflammation came on with subsequentsuppuration.  The ligature came away on the seventh day, andon the twelfth the wound was healed.


As the recital of such experiments as those preceding must beas little agreeable to you, as the repetition of them has been tomyself, I shall not give a detail of any others, but shall onlystate the opinions which the aggregate results have led me toentertain.  I feel perfectly satisfied that any p. 12surgicaloperation might be performed with quite as much safety upon asubject in an insensible state, as in a sensible state, and thata patient might be kept with perfect safety long enough in aninsensible state, for the performance of the most tediousoperation.  My own experience has also satisfied me that invery many cases the best effects would be produced by thepatient’s mind being relieved from the anticipation ofsuffering, and his body from the actual suffering of a severeoperation; and I believe that there are few, if any Surgeons, whocould not operate more skillfully when they were conscious theywere not inflicting pain.  There are also many cases inwhich it would be important to prevent any considerablehemorrhage, and in which the surgeon would feel the advantages ofa diminished flow of blood during an operation.  I havereason to believe that no injurious consequence would follow ifthe necessity of the case should call for more than oncesuspension of animation; for a young growing dog was severaltimes rendered insensible by carbonic acid gas, with intervals ofabout p.13twenty-four or forty-eight hours, without sustaining,apparently, the slightest injury.  Its appetite continuedperfectly good, and I ascertained, by weighing it, that it gainedweight rapidly.  I am not, at present, aware of any sourceof danger to a patient, from an operation performed during astate of insensibility, which would not operate to the sameextent upon a patient in full possession of his powers ofsuffering, particularly if he were rendered insensible by beingsimply subjected to respire confined air.  I used inflatinginstruments in one experiment only, and therefore am not preparedto say to what extent such may be used with advantage; but Ithink it probable that those and the Galvanic fluid would operatein restoring animation in some cases.  I was prepared toemploy the Galvanic fluid if any case had occurred to render theoperation of any stimulant necessary, but all the subjectsrecovered by being simply exposed to the open air; and I feel soconfident that animation in the human subject could be safelysuspended by proper means, carefully employed, that, (although Icould not conscientiously p. 14recommend a patient to risk his lifein the experiment,) I certainly should not hesitate a moment tobecome the subject of it, if I were under the necessity ofsuffering any long or severe operation,

I remain, Sir,

Your obedient Servant,

Shifnal, Aug. 14th, 1824.




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