Whenever someone has a bright idea, they should always test out the secondary and tertiary consequences of their change before they implement them on a large scale. Any time we implement a therapy change for our patients, we have to consider if one therapy will interact with another therapy or might worsen another condition. The same need for considering unintended consequences arises when the environmentalists try to save the environment. With the huge boom in usage of disposable personal protective like gloves, gowns, and masks since 2020, there was a concern about the environmental impact of this increase. Faster degrading medical gowns seemed like a no-brainer.
This sounded like a great idea. There is, however, often a ‘but’ that makes the original bright idea not so bright. The new widely produced biodegradable gowns do break down in landfills faster, but at a cost. Their shorter lifespan produces more greenhouse gases than the slow degrading older gown design. Now, if you know me, I am not too concerned about greenhouse gases as the amount humans contribute to the actual biosphere is far less than the headlines try to warn us. My main point is that as a society, whether in medicine or public health or any major change, we should slow down and think about the potential unintended consequences.
We did not as a society slow down and think about the potential risks and benefits of masks. We did not slow down and think about the pros and cons of lockdowns. We did slow down and think about many things since 2020 including making a bunch of medical gowns that produce another problem that they were intended to avert. Before we go off and make other big expensive changes to life, not just in medicine, but in general, let’s sleep on it, scratch our heads, talk to others of different insights and perspectives, and as my business coach says, “Gain More Perspective.”
That approach, even before I heard from my business coach is how we approach patients with longer visits, more listening and more thinking amongst our clinician team. Whether changes address how medical gowns are made or deciding testing and therapy for a chronically ill patients, methodical approaches are more likely to lead to healthier more abundant lives.
Xiang Zhao, Jiří Jaromír Klemeš, Michael Saxon, Fengqi You. How sustainable are the biodegradable medical gowns via environmental and social life cycle assessment? Journal of Cleaner Production, 2022; 380: 135153 DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2022.135153
Thanks to Science Daily:
Cornell University. “Biodegradable medical gowns produce harmful emissions.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 December 2022. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/12/221220165219.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.