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16 Surgery and Emotion (Book chapter)

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ISBN: 9781349952601 Year: Pages: 22 DOI: 10.1057/978-1-349-95260-1_16 Language: English
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Grant: Wellcome Trust
Subject: Surgery --- Medicine (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2019-01-15 13:34:11
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Abstract

In this chapter I have endeavoured to demonstrate the ways in which an
approach that takes the emotions seriously might nuance and complicate
our understandings of the history of pre-anaesthetic surgery. In general,
historians have tended to focus on the operations of surgical dispassion, or
what we might now term clinical detachment. What this research suggests,
however, is that compassion and emotional expression played a surprisingly
important role in shaping the cultures of early nineteenth-century operative
surgery as well as the identities of its practitioners. In the decades immediately
preceding the advent of anaesthesia, pain became a central concern of
surgical discourse and the response to this concern was shaped by the cultures
of sentiment and sensibility. However, this culture of compassion was
no ‘natural’ reaction to a self-evident problem. Rather, it was a culturally
and historically contingent phenomenon which could be harnessed to the
ideologies and ambitions of medical reform. In the hands of men like John
Bell and Thomas Wakley, the image of the surgeon as a man of refined and
honest sentiment was linked to a critique of the medical and surgical ancien
regime, providing an idealised representation of a more expert, meritocratic
and altruistic profession.

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