Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Evil Anglican Churchmen Who Opposed Obstetric Anaesthesia

I was minding my own business this evening when the attached picture got retweeted into my timeline with some suitable scorn attached to it.

Such a blatant example of religious superstition and opposition to progress. Outraged, I tell you - outraged? I was so outraged I did some research.

James Simpson, the concerned doctor, was a steady member of the Church of Scotland. He practised in Scotland, so on two bases the scandalised interests of the "godly men" of the Church of England would have had no effect on him. In the 1840s the Church of England had bishops in the Lords, as it does today, but no veto over the practice of medicine.

In 1853, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England waded into the row in a particularly blatant and outrageous way. You're gonna be outraged by this. Blatant? Outraged? I should say.

Those of you who know your history will know the Supreme Governor was Queen Victoria. She was given chloroform when she gave birth to Prince Leopold. So outraged was she by the unbiblical method, that four years later she used it again for Princess Beatrice.

So the whole "Evil Churchmen who Opposed Chloroform" story is drivel.

And it's anaesthetic. There's another "a" in it.


  1. It's mentioned on the Canadian website

  2. It is. Unsourced. And we know why.

  3. I wonder about childbirth - having never given birth, I don't know what all the fuss is about - might be that I'm a man might have something to do with it.

    I can remember vaguely about 45 years ago, the spouse of the day squawking a bit in the labour ward - I didn't feel a thing - I was out cold on the floor.

  4. It was suggested even at the time that the "outrage" was largely manufactured by Simpson himself, as a way of publicizing his new treatment. Very modern, that man.

    Unfortunately, chloroform can be severely hepatotoxic (poisonous to the liver) causing all sorts of problems in later life; besides which it can cause a fatal form of heart arrhythmia leading to sudden death. He was extremely lucky this didn't happen to Queen Victoria.

    In fact, after a series of deaths, chloroform was phased out rapidly in favour of ether, which is unpleasant but not so dangerous.

    Just so you know.


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