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Jack Stanley Gibson

Surgeon who advocated the use of hypnosis as an alternative to anaesthetics

Jack Stanley Gibson, surgeon and hypnotherapist Naas, County Kildare, Ireland (b 1909; q 1933; FRCSI, DTM&H), d 2 April 2005.

Jack Gibson died peacefully in the Naas General Hospital on Saturday 2 April 2005 aged 95.

He will be remembered by his colleagues, patients, and employees as a doctor with a welcoming smile who treated everyone with respect and courtesy.

He was a short, balding dynamo of a man, once a James Mason lookalike, latterly closer to Nelson Mandela with Ghandi’s beautiful smile. His impact on people’s lives was phenomenal.

He was a walking contradiction who was the bane of many a hospital hierarchy or high court judge: he was alternative yet conventional, a rebellious yet establishment figure, informal yet intense, self mocking yet proud. He was obstinate and infuriating, yet nevertheless colourful and charismatic.

Jack was always improvisational and inventive as a surgeon, creating new stitching techniques and instruments, pioneering hypnosis even before the second world war and castigating the excessive use of antibiotics.

He believed in the power of the mind above all else and inspired several generations of doctors to the underrated practice of hypnosis, both in surgery and in treating psychosomatic disorders or disease. His books are peppered with inspirational and often idiosyncratic tales and case histories that leave the reader gasping for more.

After becoming a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in 1934, he then did locums in Aden and Malawi (1935-7), and at the McCord Zulu Hospital (1938).

He became dean of the Medical Aids School (later known as the Durban Medical School) in 1939.

He worked for the Emergency Medical Service in Newcastle, Liverpool, and Weymouth (1939-45) treating soldiers wounded at Dunkirk and during D Day.

Jack returned to South Africa working at the Brakepan Hospital and as a GP in 1946-9, and then came back north to Guernsey as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital surgeon, 1950-8. He returned to Africa as the Haile Selassie Hospital surgeon, Ethiopia, 1959, and finally returned to his native Ireland as the Dr Steeven’s Hospital RSO, in Dublin, 1959.

He was the youngest ever fellow of the RCSI (October 1935). He set up the first blood transfusion service for black Africans around 1938. He pioneered hypnosis in surgery for over 40 years, performing more than 4000 procedures without anaesthesia (www.drjackgibson.com/biography.html).

He developed a unique bond of friendship over 20 years as a Protestant working in a Catholic hospital.

He ran the busiest accident and emergency departments in Ireland for more than a decade, with one of the lowest mortality rates in the country.

He cured himself of basal cell cancer and chronic varicose veins through self hypnosis.

He produced a series of gramophone records/cassette tapes and CDs from 1965 onwards, dealing with psychosomatic disorders and based on self hypnosis (How to Stop Smoking was top of the pops and later was the best selling LP in Ireland in 1971).

He had a long and illustrious career as a legal medical expert, sparring on many occasions with Arthur Chance, who had once given him a job in 1959 at Steeven’s Hospital. He appeared several times on The Late Late Show, Nationwide and various other television programmes.

He produced a video entitled The Power of the Subconscious showing himself performing eye surgery under hypnosis in the 1960s.

He published three books: The Life and Times of an Irish Hypnotherapist (1989), Relax and Live (1992), and Memoirs of an Irish Surgeon—An Enchanted Life (1999).

After 70 years’ practice, he was still working seven days a week until the Wednesday before his death at the age of 95.

He was in the process of drafting three more books, one about case histories in hypnotherapy, an academic/medical book on hypnotherapy, and one on James Esdaile, a Scottish surgeon who practised hypnosis for surgical purposes in India in the 1800s.

He visited India aged 90 and even got on a camel and rode around the Taj Mahal.

Despite a severe stroke in 1989, the replacement of both rheumatoid knees, an operation for carpal tunnel syndrome, and a life threatening and murderous attack in 2004, he still had plans to visit the Himalayas and China.

He is survived by Andrew Gibb, his son-in-law; Jason Gibb, his grandson; Tamsin, his granddaughter; and two great grandchildren. [S C Kohli, Andrew Gibb]