Climate change a medical diagnosis, says BC doctor
A British Columbia doctor has caught the world’s attention as possibly the first doctor to diagnose a patient with ‘climate change’.
Nelson-based Dr Kyle Merritt gave the controversial diagnosis over the summer, saying the symptoms a 70-year-old patient was seeing were all related to one thing.
These effects included heat stroke, dehydration and respiratory problems. While treating the patient, he began to think about the underlying issues. He eventually diagnosed her with climate change.
To hear Merritt tell it, he’s just a small-town family doctor, interested in being accurate and helping his patients.
But with a diagnosis, he made headlines around the world.
“I’m not used to all the attention I’ve been getting lately over the last two days here. Yeah, it’s interesting how things impact,” he said.
The diagnosis came as the province grappled with an unprecedented wildfire season, then punished by scorching temperatures. The emergency department he works in was busy with people with heat-related issues.
He noted that many patients were showing similar symptoms as temperatures in parts of British Columbia topped 40C.
“As I started to see this more and more and started to make these connections between what was happening with the climate and the health of my patients, it became overwhelming, honestly, to see the effects that were happening on people,” he told CTV. News in an interview.
Merritt said he could see that climate change was impacting those who were poor and vulnerable.
“So people who can’t afford air conditioning, for various reasons, who can’t escape the smoke, etc., have to work outside. Those are the people we see the the biggest impacts. And as physicians, it’s our responsibility to start looking at those underlying causes and try to advocate to protect our patients,” he explained.
The doctor is also a member of Doctors for Planetary Health. In their spare time, group members advocate for policy makers and the public to take action and be aware of the impacts of global warming. He and the other doctors are clear, their opinions are their own and not necessarily those of their employers.
Dr. Linda Thyer is a founding member of the group. She works with young people and told CTV News she also sees the impact of the climate crisis on this demographic. In addition to the physical impacts noted in Merritt’s diagnosis, there are the mental health impacts.
“We see this playing out in a number of ways. Some of them lose hope in their future. They don’t necessarily see the point in going to college, saving for retirement, and many are wondering if they even want to have kids,” Thyer added.
Another doctor, Maura Brown, described some of the positive things people can do to reduce climate change and its impact on their health. She mentioned going vegetarian more often, walking or cycling to work and heating homes with electric pumps as options that can make a difference, and can also make people feel like they have some control. on what is happening.
At the community level, she says, talking about the problem and anxieties can also help.
“If you do something to contribute, you gain a sense of advocacy, you become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. And that really helps people,” she told CTV News in an interview.
She added that for young people, it can really help to see older generations step in to solve the problem.