Surgeons vs Anaesthetists Debate

RCH Surgeons vs Anaesthetists Debate:

Actions speak louder than words.


Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. A very good evening to our esteemed judges.  It is an absolute honour to be here with you representing the surgical community. It is my promise that we 3 surgeons will continue to be here to support you the anaesthetists when you lose tonight. I am glad that we are debating here tonight outside the realms of the operating theatre because the only place we can beat an anaesthetist is outside the theatre. We all know that anaesthetists are powerless outside theatre. They can’t cancel cases or delay cases, or get help from all the other anaesthetists sitting quietly doing Crosswords in the tea room. An anaesthetist outside theatre is like a fish out of water, like a sleeping koala out of the gum tree, like a meerkat in an aquarium. They’re lost. They wear their helmets and tight lycra pants walking around click clacking in their cycling shoes, powerless.

Honourable judges and friends let me frame the debate properly. With their words, they want to convince you that Action speaks louder than words. That is so so so mistaken. What did you come here to do? You came here to hear us speak. You came here to hear clever words. We are using words to debate this motion. They’re using words to justify their actions. It’s like a surgeon using Propofol to make a point about surgery. It doesn’t make sense. If actions did speak louder than words, then we should be jousting or doing a charade competition. In fact, this debate is really not about whether Actions speak louder than words or vice versa. This debate is about who has the louder and better words.

Actions are speechless. You see, we are not saying that actions are unimportant. Actions are important. But actions do not speak louder than words. Words are louder. Actions, unless you hit something against another, are soundless. All human actions are quiet, except for 2 things. 1. Speaking – that is, the delivery of words into the space of humanity, proving to you that words are louder. And 2. Farting. Yes. This is a children’s hospital. We all know that farting can be louder than words. I guess the anaesthetists over there know all about farting, because they are experts at professionally passing gas every day.

Without words, appearance and actions can be misinterpreted. Without introducing myself using words, I could be mistaken for an anaesthetist. What do you call an anaesthetist in a suit? “The Defendant, your honour.” Their appearance, if not explained properly, can be misleading.

I am going to give you 3 evidence that words speak louder than actions. Evidence from history, evidence from biology and evidence from sociology. But before that, a story.

Recently the College of Anaesthesia held their Annual Scientific Meeting in Malaysia. On the flight back in one of the planes, there was reported a medical emergency. The pilot made an overhead announcement. “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We are cruising at 10,000 feet and will be landing in Melbourne on time. We do have a special request. There is a passenger with an urgent medical need in first class. If there are any anaesthetists on board, could you please make yourself known to one of our air stewards please.” So an anaesthetist from all the way back in economy ran up to first class and asked the air steward, “I’m an anaesthetist, what’s the medical emergency?”. The air steward said “Thank you for coming so quickly. There is an orthopaedic surgeon up there who needs her table height and light adjusted.”

That story has nothing at all to do with my argument. But it’s a good story and it shows you how words can transport your mind to a different place.

Words speak louder than actions: Evidence from History

All throughout history, the pen has always been mightier than the sword. Words are the crucible of actions. Words precede and supersede actions. Words are primary, and actions are secondary.

“I have a dream, that one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream.”

Or what about this:

“Tell me somethin’, girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?

In the shallow. In the shallow. In the sha-ha-ha-ha-hallow…”

Martin Luther King Jr, Lady Gaga, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Bradley Cooper, the late Bob Hawke, Jacinda Ardern, Justin Trudeau and many other leaders have mobilised nations and communities around the power of words. Words ignite action. Words are timeless. Words are boundless. Words are powerful. Words speak louder than any action. The careful use of words could unite nations and tear down histories. Bad words result in war. Good words result in peace. Loose lips sink ships. History is written in words and is handed down generations to generations.

Let’s take you all the way back even more. What separated us advanced human beings from our action-based primitive ancestors is language. Words are a marker of sophistication and progress.

Words change history and history is recorded in words. That’s a compelling evidence from History that Words speak louder.

Evidence from Biology

I am an Ear Nose & Throat Surgeon. I am an expert at the important words in this debate. The element of speak and the matter of loudness. No one else on that panel is an expert at speech. They spend their days putting plastic tubes through the beautiful organ of speech. They get a 50/50 chance of getting it right down the right hole each time. Do not listen to the arguments of a non-expert. I am the very embodiment of a Level 4 Expert Opinion, on what speaks and does not speak.

As an ENT surgeon, I also know all there is to know about loudness. Again, listen to the only expert on this panel. Here’s an audiometric table of loudness that I took from our ENT Textbook. It shows that Anaesthetists are soft like a dripping tap 0-10decibels, while the surgeons are louder and more musical. The graph even calls us profound. That’s just who we are. We speak louder. Words speak louder.


I love hearing. I love speech. And I love words. I wanna show you the most beautiful word in the whole universe. It is this word Otorhinolaryngology. It speaks louder than actions. Oto-Rhino-Laryngo-Logy. The word is made up of the word Oto, meaning ear in Latin. Rhino, meaning nose in Swahilli. And Larynx, meaning throat in Wakanda Forever. And The Logies. Compare that to the other word Anaesthetist. Anaes-The-Tist. I don’t know, I think Anaes may be Australian for Anus. I’m not sure.

What about Evidence from Sociology?

I did an extensive in depth research on the Sociology. I went to Social Media and Tweeted out this question. I got 48 great replies. Mostly from anaesthetists who are probably working while on twitter.

Here’s a few examples.


And here’s the scientific paper that supports my stand. Words Speak Louder. Published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2015. I haven’t read the paper so I don’t know what it’s all about but the title supports my argument, so you just have to believe the evidence.5

So we use words in our day to day work. I can’t do what I do without the consent form. We can’t do timeout without communication in words, not in actions. Words are moving. Words carry power. Words carry hope. It happens for example, every afternoon at 4.45pm. When the wolf pack arrives at your operating theatre armed with their clipboards and blue phones, they ask “When will you finish?” I always, always give them hope. I always pull out a random number and say “I’ll be done in 5 minutes.” Just to give them hope. Words carry hope.

Let me finish, your excellency, with a simple experiment. I want to demonstrate to you that Words speak louder. Let me ask all of you in this auditorium to turn to the person next to you and just look at them. Don’t say anything. Just use your action. Awkward isn’t it? Now let me ask you to do that again, and this time tell them, “Oh crikey, you are the most beautiful thing on this planet.” Actions without words, are meaningless. Words speak louder than actions and move you deeply.

I think I have demonstrated to you, your honour, that words speak louder. Thank you.