Anesthesiology is that branch of medicine that is dedicated to total care of a patient undergoing surgery and the relief of pain. Anesthesiologists are the physicians responsible for putting patients to sleep and keeping them safe during an operation. In my limited exposure to anesthesiology as a first-year medical student, the patients trusted the anesthesiologist with their very lives, including protecting their airway and ensuring that blood continued to reach their tissues.
All this while allowing themselves to be paralyzed, sedated, and naked in the operating room of strangers. This is the highest expression of trust a patient can show toward a physician, maybe toward any other living human being, as it puts patients physically, and arguably also psychologically, in the most vulnerable of all possible states. Anesthesiologists, as the guard dogs of the lives of patients undergoing surgery, bear great privilege and responsibility.
Physicians are entrusted with the promotion of the public good and called upon to uphold both professional competencies and high ethical standards. The anesthesiologist, due to the potentially lethal nature of the agents used and the importance of the body systems which these drugs affect, daily demonstrates and upholds the trust which exists between patients and the medical profession.
Feelings of safety and freedom from fear allow people to sleep peacefully, while pain, worry, and stress contribute to secondary insomnia. Sleep and all the psychological and physiological benefits that accompany this state of suspended consciousness is a basic human need.
The thief dares not enter for fear of the guard dog; the owner can sleep at ease knowing his capable hound is on duty and would alert him to any changes. Without a sense of safety, without a guard dog, without a watchman, without a guardian angel, without an anesthesiologist, it would be foolishness for a patient to give up the conscious protection of their body and allow themselves to be made unconscious and operated on.
When patients consent to undergo anesthesia for surgery, they agree to a transfer to another person a responsibility which no marriage vows, no guardianship, no business deal, no blood bond, no pledge of allegiance, can otherwise include: the responsibility for the maintenance of oxygen delivery through the essential physiological mechanisms.
Under some medications, the patient surrenders control of their airway, trusting that the anesthesiologist will breathe for them in a timely and safe manner. The patient trusts the anesthesiologist to know their body better than it knows itself about how much stress, medication, and oxygen the patient's body tolerates and requires.
In the case of operations, often it is necessary to render the patient incapacitated for even the most fundamental level of participation such as innate physiological responses, requiring someone to protect the patient in all possible ways. Given that patients trust anesthesiologists with their very lives, anesthesiologists lead the medical profession in altruistic service, expertise, and safety; they are the faithful guard dogs.