Letter: Safe anaesthetics

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Sir: Any death during general anaesthesia is distressing. Stephen Goodwin reports such a death during dental treatment (14 October). Although it is extremely rare, as Goodwin reports, it does still occur, both in general dental and hospital practice. However, his statement that risk is unaffected by whether the person administering the anaesthetic is a doctor or an anaesthetist does merit further comment.

In the United Kingdom, we pride ourselves that when a patient is rendered unconscious, their protective reflexes impaired, their own control of blood pressure impeded and their ability to breathe restricted or abolished by a concoction of more or less toxic chemicals (or general anaesthesia to give it its technical term), the patient is always cared for by a doctor. All anaesthetists in the UK are fully qualified doctors first and foremost; not all doctors are qualified to administer and monitor anaesthesia.