ROME — The once-venerable UK Lancet medical journal is charging ahead in its climate change crusade, proclaiming “the ethical and medical urgency of the climate crisis” in its latest issue.
After calling climate change the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century” earlier this month, the Lancet has now praised “health-care professionals participating in Extinction Rebellion action [who] blocked the entrance to the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to protest about impotent responses to climate change.”
In a woke mea culpa confessing that health care is “part of the climate problem,” the Lancet notes that in 2014 “the global health-care industry emitted 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2), or 4.4% of the world’s total.”
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“Visible examples include operating rooms overflowing with trash generated by disposable sterile supplies and surgical equipment, parking areas filled with private transportation reliant on fossil fuels, and constant energy flow to digital monitors and other technologies,” the journal acknowledges.
Moreover, the Lancet continues, “pharmaceuticals — many of which are produced from fossil fuels — are the second most carbon intensive part of health care, after medical instruments and equipment.”
To be more environmentally responsible, physicians can reconsider the carbon impact of some routine prescribing practices, the journal advises.
For example, doctors should consider refusing to participate in the distribution of free drug samples and in this way “help reduce medication overuse and reduce the carbon impact when samples go unused.”
Physicians could also avoid starting patients on 30-day medication supplies by starting with just a 1-week supply, “even at the cost of some convenience to the doctor and patient,” the Lancet counsels.
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The article goes on to propose that physicians engage in “green informed consent,” which “incorporates education about the climate impact of pharmaceuticals and climate change health hazards.”
In this way, patients “might choose to decline a medication, or they might choose to accept the medication and pursue carbon offsets,” the Lancet asserts.
The article concludes by urging physicians to be “climate activists in their daily clinical practice.”
“Health-care professionals have an important part to play in reducing the carbon emissions of health care by dispensing only needed medications and by helping to ensure that those are used to their fullest potential,” it contends.