Jonathan Cilvin writes:

> Yet another variation: for 10 million dollars, would you
> agree to undergo a week of excruciating pain, and then have
> the memory of the week wiped? What if you remember agreeing
> to this 100 times in the past; that is, you remember agreeing
> to it, then a moment later experiencing a slight
> discontinuity, and being given the ten million dollars (which
> let's say you gambled all away). You were told every time you
> would experience pain, but all you experienced was being
> given the money. Would it be tempting to agree to this again
> ("and this time, I'll put the money in the bank")?

I've sometimes wondered whether some anaesthetics might work this way: put
you into a state of paralysis, and affect your short term memory. So you
actually experience the doctor cutting you open, with all the concommitant
pain, but you can't report it at the time and forget about it afterwards. If
you knew an anaesthetic worked that way, would you agree to have it used on
you for surgery?

I've thought about exactly this while sitting for hours as the assistant anaesthetist during long operations! In fact, we know that in some cases it is exactly what happens. If the anaesthetic is "underdone" and the patient starts moving when the surgeon starts cutting, it is possible that the patient will remember being in terrible pain after he wakes up, and sue the anaesthetist. Therefore, if an incident like this occurs, the anaesthetist gives the patient a bolus of IV midazolam, which usually ensures that the patient has no memory of the incident, and everyone is happy. I wonder what a court would say if the patient somehow found out what had happened and decided to sue anyway, arguing that although he couldn't remember it, he must have been in excruciating pain, and therefore deserves compensation for the suffering caused by the doctor's negligence?

--Stathis Papaioannou

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