The Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society Chloroform Committee, 1864
Chloroform, introduced into anaesthesia in 1849, caused unexpected and unexplained deaths. This was a concern to anaesthetists and surgeons, even at a time when death from surgery and disease was common. The first investigation into chloroform was organised by the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society (now the Royal Society of Medicine) in 1864 in London(1, 2). In their report, the committee thanked "...Mr Clover, who, although not a member of the committee attended, at their request, nearly all the meetings for experiments, administered the chloroform and contrived from time to time, with remarkably ingenuity, special apparatus for carrying them on."(3)
Since this report runs to well over a hundred pages it is not possible to summarise here (see link below). Clover continued with his belief that chloroform was safe, provided no more that 4% was administered - as could be done with his equipment. Others continued as before; very little changed as a result of this committee or the many that followed. It was not until the early twentieth century that the cardiac toxicity of chloroform was finally determined and chloroform was removed from the anaesthetists armamentarium.
1.Thomas KB. Chloroform: Commissions and Omissions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 1974;67:723-30.
2. Duncum BM. The Development of Inhalation Anaesthesia. Second ed. London: Oxford University Press; 1947 1994.
3.Report of the Committee appointed by the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society to inquire into the Uses and the Physiological, Therapeutical, and Toxical Effects of Chloroform. Medico-Chirurgical Transactions. 1864;47:323-441.
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