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Rabbi Abraham de Sola
(1825 - 1882)

picture of Rabbi Abraham de Sola

Canada's first Rabbi, Abraham de Sola, supported obstetric anaesthesia in defiance of diehard traditionalists. Like Professor James Simpson, de Sola reinterpreted the key passage of Genesis 3:16. In three articles for a Canadian medical journal, Rabbi de Sola explains how God had ordained that woman should bring forth children with "toil" or "labour", not pain.

Unfortunately, other Biblical passages are less ambiguous. The injunction: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18) cost millions of women their lives. The fateful words caused untold suffering over several centuries. England and Scotland were mostly spared the worst excesses of the 15th - 17th century European witch-hunts. But after seeking some kind of succour for the birth of her twins, gentlewoman Eufame MacAlyane was burned alive as a witch in 1592 on the order of Scottish King James I, author of Demonologie (1597). James later became James VI of England (1603-25).

Happily, the King's descendant, Queen Victora, did not suffer a similar fate after soliciting chloroform for the birth of her son Prince Leopold. Indeed the use of chloroform by the Queen contributed to the wider social acceptance of obstetric analgesia and anaesthesia in Victorian Britain, though this influence is debated and hard to quantify.


Utopian Surgery
Rabbi Abraham de Sola
Refs and Further Reading
Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics
Obstetric Chloroform Apparatus