The Greatest Show In Your Butt

Martha C. Nussbaum advocates forgoing anesthesia for colonoscopies, arguing that the painless procedure is worth being awake for:

Yesterday I saw my appendix.

It was pink and tiny, quite hard to see, but how interesting to be introduced to it for the first time. In for a routine colonoscopy (my fourth, on account of a family history), I refused sedation as I always do, and I had the enormous thrill of witnessing parts of myself that I carry around with me every day, but never really know or acknowledge. I chatted with my doctor about many things, including the various justices of the Supreme Court, the details of my procedure, and, not least, the whole question of sedation and anesthesia. He told me that 99 percent of his patients have either sedation or, more often now, general anesthesia, since that is increasingly urged by the hospitals. (In Europe, he said, about 40 percent refuse sedation.) He listed the costs of this trend: financial costs that are by now notorious, lost workdays for both patient and whoever has to drive the patient (whereas a non-sedated patient needs no caretaker and can go right back to work), lost time for nurses and other hospital staff, and, of course, the risks of sedation and the even greater risks of general anesthesia.

And, I’d add, the loss of the wonder of self-discovery. You are only this one body, it’s all you are and ever will be; it won’t be there forever; and why not become familiar with it, when science gives the chance? I began refusing sedation out of a work ethic; I continued through fascination.