During World War II, Henry Beecher, an American anaesthetist, made an extraordinary discovery.
Many of the soldiers he treated had suffered horrific injuries. He knew these injuries would be agonising, and quickly arranged for the soldiers to be triaged on the severity of their wounds so that those with the worst injuries could be given analgesia first.
But he began to notice something very strange. Over half the soldiers reported little or no pain, despite severe wounds, and didn’t request any pain relief. Pain management simply wasn’t the priority, and Beecher couldn’t understand why it wasn’t.
The men were not in shock and were still able to feel pain. In fact, Beecher noted that they complained about the intravenous lines in their arms just as much as other patients.