Clinical Ethics 17 (2):130-135 (2022)
AbstractPerioperative staff are frequently exposed to surgical smoke or plume created by using heat-generating devices like diathermy and lasers. This is a concern due to mounting evidence that this exposure can be harmful with no safe level of exposure yet identified. First, I briefly summarise the problem posed by surgical smoke exposure and highlight that many healthcare organisations are not sufficiently satisfying their legal and ethical responsibilities to protect their staff from potential harm. Second, I explore the ethical case for compulsory smoke evacuation systems using the principlist framework and its four ethical principles – autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. I then consider some objections and argue that surgical smoke evacuation systems – when indicated – should be made compulsory.
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