26 July 2008

How the advent of the NHS caused blindness

Patients like oxygen. They think it is good for you. Nurses like oxygen. They think the same way. Ambulance staff certainly like oxygen. But is it always good for you? The answer is a definite no but it's well nigh impossible to get some of these groups to listen. You are onto a loser if you try telling people - even those that really should know better - that oxygen might actually be causing trouble.

Imagine if you had a tiny premature baby to look after and somebody told you to restrict its oxygen supplementation. What would you do? Supposing some eccentric told you that he thought that oxygen might actually be harming premature babies and that he was going to do a trial to test this hypothesis. Would you be tempted to turn up the oxygen at night when the eccentric was not around? You would not be alone. This is what the nurses did in some of the trials designed to investigate the cause of retrolental fibroplasia, a cause of blindness. This disease started in England just as the NHS started. That was the key clue that led to the cause of the disease being found. You can read the story here and here. But if you're not interested, how about watching the video below?

This post was first published on 23rd June 2007. Dr Grumble has republished it in response to this post from Nice Lady Doctor.


Tom Reynolds said...

Actually we have having that change in the Ambulance service - we won't be told to automatically give oxygen to all patients except Paraquat poisoning.

The one that is weird for us is not automatically giving O2 to MIs.

Dr Grumble said...

Dr G has always had his doubts about O2 given blindly in myocardial infarction. These concerns have been around since before old Grumble was born (pdf).