October 21, 2002
long believed anecdotally that natural redheads needed more to put
them under. According to a study presented at this month's meeting
of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in Orlando, they're
right. Researchers at the University of Louisville School of
Medicine in Kentucky, studied the anesthesia requirements of 20 healthy
Caucasian women, 10 with bright red hair and the other 10 with dark
hair. All were put under with the general anesthetic, desflurane.
Those with red hair needed 20% more of the drug than the others. 'That
people with the red hair phenotype require more anesthesia is not only of practical
importance, but suggests that genetic characteristics contribute to
differences in anesthetic requirements in humans,' said Edwin B. Liem,
MD, lead author of the study and an anesthesiologist at the Outcomes
Research Institute at the university." http://www.ama-assn.org/sci-pubs/amnews/pick_02/hlbf1021.htm#10212
The local ABC-affiliate major-market
station has been reporting this story. I have heard this story reported
during both the local and national NPR news reports. Talk show hosts
are joking about it. The local evening news mentioned it. The AMA
mentioned the study and it spread. Twenty people in one study, and
red heads are being told that their bodies work differently. Twenty
women, ten of whom had red hair and ten of whom had dark hair, were
used to support an anecdotal theory that already existed.
Do anesthesiologists automatically
give more anesthesia? Is that safe? Are men with red hair affected?
These were all healthy women, what about those with chronic medical
problems (who would likely need surgery). Can twenty healthy Caucasian
women speak for the world? Does this work with other forms of anesthesia
and pain medication? What good is being done for the public by releasing
this information? Why did the AMA choose to make this information
available? What issues regarding genetic differences and health issues
that are linked to physical (visible) characteristics could this bring
up? This is not to say that this is bad information, but where do
we go from here?
Questions of the Week:
What social and legal consequences may result if insurance companies,
employers, and others feel justified making decisions based upon physical
attributes? Are people likely to make improper generalizations with
these limited results?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum