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The aesthetic and the anaesthetic

November 2004 -- This month's issue of Vogue includes an excerpt from the Center's letter in response to the inaccurate assertion, attributed to a Hollywood plastic surgeon in the June issue, that the use of nurse anesthetists is "unsafe." While Vogue could go farther to make amends for publishing this comment without any support or balancing quote, the Center commends the magazine for publishing part of our description of the vital contributions of nurse anesthetists.

As the final letter in its monthly "talking back" section, the November Vogue includes (at p. 134) an "Editor's Note" that reads as follows:

Editor's note: In the June article about aesthetic plastic surgery, "Shopping for Surgery," by Ariel Levy [Beauty, Health & Fitness], surgeon R. Patrick Abergel, M.D., was quoted as follows: "It's not illegal for surgeons to administer anesthesia themselves, and a lot do--or they work with nurse anesthetists. Both are unsafe." In response to this remark, VOGUE received a vast number of letters, largely from nurse anesthetists, decrying Dr. Abergel's statement. The following reflects their opinion:

Then the magazine includes the following edited excerpt from a letter from the Center:

Contrary to Dr. Abergel's unsupported statement, published research has shown that the care of nurse anesthetists is at least as good as that of anesthesiologists. Nurse anesthtists are skilled professionals with master's degrees who provide vital anesthesia services to thousands of surgical patients daily, especially in more remote areas with insufficient business potential to attract anesthesiologists. To compare the highly developed anesthesia skills of nurse anesthetists to those of plastic surgeons with little or no anesthesia training is a grotesque insult. Indeed, it is not clear what would qualify any plastic surgeon who, according to Dr. Abergel's own statement, would be unfit to administer anesthesia to dismiss an entire category of anesthesia professionals who save lives in health care contexts. Vogue should have consulted a nurse anesthetist or the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists for the facts, or at least for a response to Dr. Abergel's sweeping statements.

Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
Baltimore, MD

Read the full letter from the Center and other information about the Vogue campaign here.


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