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Fiddling with memory
  1. Andrew Davidson1,2,3
  1. 1 Department of Anaesthesia, Royal Childrens Hospital, Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2 Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  3. 3 Melbourne Children's Trials Centre, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andrew Davidson, Department of Anaesthesia, Royal Children's Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, Vicotria 3052, Australia; Andrew.davidson{at}

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The article published by Walter Glannon1 raises a number of intriguing questions. Glannon explores the ethics of manipulating memory during or after anaesthesia in the context of possible awareness; awareness being defined as a period when a patient becomes unintentionally conscious during the anaesthetic.

Glannon focuses his paper around the ethics of a situation where a drug might be given to erase the memory of awareness. Erasing established memory is known as retrograde amnesia. Unfortunately, the Glannon discussion must remain largely hypothetical as no drug has yet been shown to induce retrograde amnesia in humans.2 Propofol and midazolam are highly effective at inducing anterograde amnesia, interfering with memories of events that occur after the drug is given, but neither can erase an existing memory.3 Glannon suggests an infusion of a protein synthesis inhibitor into the lateral or basal amygdale might induce retrograde amnesia, however, this treatment seems as invasive as it is unproven. Traumatic brain injury …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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