I saw two polls mentioned in the Irish Examiner yesterday.
The British Medical Journal are doing a survey on the best medical breakthrough since 1840
Discovery of DNA structure
Medical imaging (x-rays, etc.)
Oral contraceptive pill
Oral rehydration therapy
Risks of smoking
Sanitation (clean water and sewage disposal)
It’s a difficult choice, but i voted for Anaesthesia.
By the end of the 19th century anaesthesia was proclaimed as one of the civilising factors of the Western world, and it remains today the most vivid example of medicine’s capacity to diminish human suffering. Anaesthesia continues to develop: muscle relaxants and techniques such as spinal anaesthesia have brought new benefits; anaesthetists have extended their practice to intensive care and management of chronic pain; and new inhaled and intravenous anaesthetic agents have facilitated the development of day case surgery. The detail of anaesthesia will surely continue to evolve. But nothing is likely to be as significant as the demonstrations by 19th century pioneers such as John Snow and James Young Simpson of the potential of anaesthesia to alleviate the pain of surgery.