Ceridwen Spark reviews 'Anaesthesia: The gift of oblivion and the mystery of consciousness' by Kate Cole-Adams

Ceridwen Spark reviews 'Anaesthesia: The gift of oblivion and the mystery of consciousness' by Kate Cole-Adams

Anaesthesia: The gift of oblivion and the mystery of consciousness

by Kate Cole-Adams

Text Publishing, $32.99 pb, 405 pp, 9781925498202

In 2009, pop star Michael Jackson, desperate to sleep, called his personal physician, Conrad Murray. To relieve the troubled star, Murray administered Propofol and anti-anxiety medications, then left. Jackson was found dead the next morning. Murray was later found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Most people who have had a general anesthetic in the last twenty years have had Propofol. It is the drug that helps us ‘go under’ and stay there as necessary. But where is ‘there’. Where do we go under an anaesthetic? And who are ‘we’ when we enter this oblivion? These questions are at the heart of Kate Cole-Adams’s book Anaesthesia. Subtitled ‘the gift of oblivion, the mystery of consciousness’, the book, like Michael Jackson’s death, highlights the slippery boundaries between sleep, anaesthesia, and death. The subtitle is suggestive, conjuring the allure of a black and silent world. While it replicates entering an abyss, the experience of being anaesthetised can be strangely unremarkable. Most of us think of it as the path by which we can avoid the pain of a day procedure or the trauma of a major operation. Indeed, as the author notes, the respite from consciousness that anaesthesia offers can be a ‘gift’, a resting place, but one from which we are likely to return.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in August 2017, no. 393
Ceridwen Spark

Ceridwen Spark

Ceridwen Spark is a Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Global Research at RMIT University. Most of her research is about gender and social change, with a particular emphasis on Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.