Scotland Just Banned a Surgical Anaesthetic Because of Climate Change

From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

h/t John CDesflurane has a greenhouse gas potential 2500x greater than CO2. But “… ensuring patient safety remains at the heart of every clinical decision …”.

Scotland first to ban environmentally harmful anaesthetic

By Smitha Mundasad
Health reporter 

Scotland has become the first country in the world to stop its hospitals using the anaesthetic desflurane because of the threat it poses to the environment. 

NHS data suggests the gas, used to keep people unconscious during surgery, has a global warming potential 2,500 times greater than carbon dioxide. 

Banning it in Scotland – from its peak use in 2017 – would cut emissions equal to powering 1,700 homes a year.

UK hospitals have already cut down.

Scottish Health and Social Care Secretary, Humza Yousaf, said: “Programmes like this are key to our transition to become a net-zero health service, whilst ensuring patient safety remains at the heart of every clinical decision.

…Read more:

What can I say – try not to get sick in Scotland.

According to Wikipedia, ” … It has the most rapid onset and offset of the volatile anesthetic drugs used for general anesthesia due to its low solubility in blood. …”. Given Desflurane is used to maintain surgical anaesthesia, this would seem to imply Desflurane is the absolute best drug for maintaining the correct level of surgical anaesthesia, because patients respond very rapidly when the anaesthesiologist adjusts the dose.

Scotland assures us that “patient safety remains at the heart of every clinical decision”, but if that were the case, why ban Desflurane? Why not let surgeons know about the greenhouse issue, but leave the choice of which drug to use to the judgement of the surgical team?

Perhaps the differences between Desflurane and the alternatives are too small to matter – this is not an issue I have studied. But whether Desflurane’s advantages are significant for a particular case no longer matters. Medical teams are now forbidden from using Desflurane, even if in their medical opinion Desflurane is the best anaesthetic for the procedure, so in that scenario at least, patient health comes second to the Scottish Health climate agenda.