The present invention provides a surgical cutting instrument having a blade portion and cutting edge therefor with electric input elements located near the cutting edge for cutting the tissue and cauterizing the surfaces of the incision, thereby allowing surgery to be more rapidly performed. This is accomplished in accordance with the illustrated embodiments of this invention by providing electrodes of opposed polarity, applied to the blade, near the cutting edge. With an electrical potential applied, no current will flow between the electrodes and no heat is produced unless the electrode gap is bridged by a conducting medium such as a high conductivity physiological fluid. Heat is then generated by electric discharge below an arcing threshold in all areas where the blade is in contact with moist tissue. Little electric discharge or heat occurs elsewhere. Moreover, if movement of the blade is halted, heat generation will substantially diminish as the cut tissue becomes dry as a result of cauterization. A process according to the present invention may include hemostasis of intact tissue and selected use of the instrument for cutting other materials compatible with the process.