Doctor who regarded mind power as a strong medicine

Dr Jack Gibson, who has died aged 95, was a former county surgeon at Naas General Hospital

Dr Jack Gibson, who has died aged 95, was a former county surgeon at Naas General Hospital. An advocate of the use of hypnosis in surgery, he is credited with treating over 4,000 patients without anaesthetics. In addition to helping many people overcome alcohol and tobacco addiction, he also employed hypnosis to treat many other chronic ailments.

People varied in their responses to hypnosis, he explained. Some were wary of it because of its association with variety shows; others were simply sceptical. But if, like him, the hypnotherapist spoke with authority, it would work on the most entrenched sceptics.

In surgical cases he sought to convince patients that they would feel no pain during or after their operations. He regarded mind power as one of the strongest, if most underrated, medicines available.

Part of his job, as he saw it, was to persuade people that they could help themselves. "A person needs to have a great will to get better and be prepared to work on it," he said.


Born on November 3rd, 1909, on Hollybank Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin, he was the youngest son of the seven children of Henry Gibson and his wife, Millie (née Bailey).

He was educated at Wesley College and at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, from where he graduated in 1933, winning gold medals in anatomy and surgery and a silver medal in anatomy.

He continued his studies at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and was awarded a diploma in 1934. That year also he became the youngest ever fellow of the RCSI. He subsequently worked in hospitals and in general practice in Aden, Malawi and South Africa. During the second World War he worked for the emergency medical service in Liverpool, Newcastle and Weymouth.

Afterwards he worked in South Africa, Guernsey and Ethiopia. He joined the surgical staff at Dr Steevens's Hospital, Dublin, in 1959 before taking up duty at Naas the following year.

He first experienced the benefits of the controlled use of the subconscious mind, as a young graduate, when a Bedouin tribesman refused an anaesthetic but nevertheless allowed him to remove a growth on his leg.

Certain that the procedure had caused his patient great pain, he later realised that the tribesman had been under self-hypnosis and had suffered no pain.

The first time he used hypnosis was to help a patient in South Africa to give up smoking. To learn more, he trained with a psychiatrist and started to use hypnosis for treating asthma and for facilitating painless childbirth. At Naas General Hospital he performed thousands of procedures, amputating limbs, setting bones and treating first-degree burns without resort to conventional anaesthetics.

His record of successful operations is remarkable. He recalled one patient who was too ill to be anaesthetised in order to have a gangrenous leg amputated.

"I asked him if he'd like to have it off under hypnosis, and to my surprise he said he'd be delighted." Afterwards the patient remarked that as his leg was being sawn off he felt no pain for the first time in two years.

In 1969 he recorded an album, How to Stop Smoking, which became a chart hit, and he continued to help people to give up cigarettes, through individual treatment sessions and his stop-smoking tapes. Following his retirement as a surgeon, he employed hypnosis in the treatment of illnesses and conditions such as asthma, acne and phobias. He treated patients at his home, St David's, an 11th-century Norman castle in Naas.

Self-hypnosis helped him to successfully treat both a cancerous growth on his forehead and troublesome varicose veins. Despite a severe stroke in 1989, the replacement of both rheumatoid knees and an operation for a wrist disorder, as well as a serious assault in his consulting room last October, he continued working, seven days a week, until a few days before he died.

He put his remarkable energy down to the fact that he took good care of himself. He exercised regularly, and did not drink or smoke. He published three books, on his life and work, and was in the process of writing three more, including one on the 19th-century Scottish surgeon, James Esdaile, who championed the use of hypnosis in surgery.

He was predeceased by his wife, Elizabeth (née James), in 1991 and daughter, Rosemary, in 1997; his granddaughter, Tamsin, grandson, Jason, and son-in-law, Andrew Gibb, survive him.

Jack Gibson: born November 3rd, 1909; died April 2nd, 2005