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Disease from Chloroform



I have seen a few examples of disease brought about by the habitual use of chloroform, and have known one death from this cause. The phenomena are usually induced in those who have commenced to take chloroform for the relief of pain or spasm. The craving for the agent is soon a very marked symptom, and the bad results of its action steadily appear. The digestive organs suffer, the appetite becomes imperfect, and the secretions irregular. The circulation follows in disorder, the heart becom ing irritable, palpitating, feeble, and intermittent. The nervous system is speedily deranged, the memory is rendered treacherous, the mind depressed, and the sleep all but impossible without the narcotic. Jaundice is another symptom occasionally incident to this form of induced disease.

Chloroform administered by the surgeon sometimes destroys life. I have estimated the fatality produced by it in this way as at the rate of one death to 2500 administrations.

Disease from Ether.

The light fluid substance called ether, or more correctly ethylic ether, and which is used by the surgeon, by inhalation, for the production of general anesthesia, and in the form of spray for local anesthesia, is sometimes a cause of induced disease. I have known symptoms of disease to follow the habitual inhalation of ether, and though they are transient in character they are serious so long as they are present. They consist of fulness of the head, stupor, unsteadiness of gait, and a sense of falling forward. During recovery there is a tendency to hysterical laughing and sobbing, with extreme sensitiveness to sounds, symptoms which remain for some hours after the inhalation has ceased, and which are attended with dyspepsia.

In and about Draper's Town in the north of Ireland a practice has been in existence for nearly forty years of drinking ether in stead of alcohol. The craving for the agent is very great, and those who are habituated to it often take several ounces of ether per day. Direct intoxication is the common and speedy result of this procedure, but the insensibility does not last long, and is fol lowed by far less distressing symptoms than those which succeed upon intoxication from alcohol. The evidence of organic disease from ether drinking is not very decisively marked, but the dys peptic and other symptoms noted above, as following inhalation, are generally present if the indulgence be carried to a great ex tent. Occasionally death succeeds upon taking a large dose of ether. Dr. Morewood of Draper's Town has witnessed four such fatal results, and has seen many cases in which the symptoms pro duced were all but fatal in degree.

ether, symptoms, inhalation and death