Humanism and the suffering of the people
Mackay IR.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology,
Monash University, Melbourne,
Victoria, Australia.
Intern Med J. 2003 Apr;33(4):195-202


Humanism includes, among its many contexts, the ideal of the universal perfection of health. Procedures for alleviation of disease existed through all epochs of human history, but efficacy was mostly lacking. The prototypic humanism of the Renaissance (ad 1300-1600) scarcely involved the medical-sciences other than human anatomy. The Enlightenment of the seventeenth century included discovery of the circulation of the blood, and applications of microscopy. Discoveries relevant to medical practice began in the nineteenth century, ushered in by vaccination and the germ theory of disease. This 200-year period saw a transformation of human health according to the surrogate marker of increased life-expectancy. This has been variously attributed to: (i) increased prosperity following the industrial revolution, (ii) efforts of humanistic social and public health reformers and, more recently, (iii) advances in medical science. Yet the beneficiaries remain a minority of the world's population. The nexus between poverty, illness and low life-expectancy between and within nations is the major challenge for the future. Contemporary science is providing ever-expanding knowledge on means to achieve the goal of perfection of human health, but the need for humanism is as great as at any previous age. Fortunately, however, the targets are more clearly visible than during the periods of poverty, plagues and pestilence of the past.
Adverse effects
Obstetric anaesthesia
Molecular mechanisms
Inhalational techniques
Anaesthesia and anaesthetics
Nitrous oxide: adverse effects
Anaesthesia: rivalries and discoveries
Consciousness, anaesthesia and anaesthetics

and further reading
Future Opioids
BLTC Research
Utopian Surgery?
The Good Drug Guide
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
The Reproductive Revolution
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World