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Gasping for breath, unable to eat or sleep, the 60-year-old man lay in a Scottish hospital moaning: “The end is near. The end is near.” Doctors agreed; the patient was suffering from an intense, intractable form of bronchial asthma in which the contractions of the bronchial tubes become almost continuous and the lungs are starved for air. Antibiotics, Adrenalin, steroid hormones and oxygen had been given without effect. Finally, the University of Aberdeen’s Dr. A. H. C. Sinclair-Gieben took over. His specialty: hypnosis.

Within ten minutes, the patient was in a deep trance. Carefully and repeatedly, Psychiatrist Sinclair-Gieben murmured: “Now you will find the wheezing stops— your breathing becomes free and easy.” Last week, in the British Medical Journal, Dr. Sinclair-Gieben reported the dramatic result: “The wheezing stopped instantaneously. Hypnosis was reinforced on alternate days for ten days, and for the first time in years the patient was able to sleep throughout the night without any wheezing. At the end of ten days he became elated … and danced a jig in front of the ward patients to illustrate how fit and well he felt.”
Dr. Sinclair-Gieben says his use of hypnosis to cure severe asthma does not necessarily show the ailment to be psychological in origin. Many asthma victims act sicker than they really are, but the Scottish patient was a “welladjusted individual” who displayed “no signs of psychiatric breakdown.” Rather, says Sinclair-Gieben, it shows that hypnosis can exert a physical as well as psychological effect: “It is widely believed that conditions responding to hypnosis must of necessity be wholly psychologically determined. However, in other conditions—for example, organic pain and warts—it has been demonstrated that hypnosis can influence an accepted physical disease entity. Clearly, hypnosis appears to draw on some unknown and, as yet, untapped reserve which acts as powerfully as any drug known, but with none of the disadvantages of drug administration.”


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