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Digital Subscriptions > Vegan Life > May 2019 > A vegan patient

A vegan patient

We look into the issues of using animal products in anaesthesia, medicines, vaccines and surgery

Veganism is one of the fastest growing movements in Britain — according to a survey led by the Vegan Society (vegansociety.com), between 2014 and 2018 the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled, rising from 150,000 to 600,000. Whilst being vegan has a number of health benefits, just like everyone else, we can and do contract illnesses or get injured. When this happens, we must sometimes turn to medication, treatment or surgery, and in order to prevent ourselves from getting sick in the future, it is also often necessary to have vaccinations. As the vegan population continues to expand, it follows that more people are beginning to question to the use of animal-derived constituents in their healthcare, raising a whole host of ethical and practical concerns for clinicians.

You’ll find that most anaesthetics, prescription medicines, vaccinations and antibiotics include at least a few animal ingredients, or have involved them in their manufacture or transportation. Similarly, biological material taken from animals is frequently used in dressings and surgical implants (for example, biological mesh used in hernia surgery). What’s more, despite the growing vegan population and the movement becoming more recognised in society, patients are rarely informed when their treatment isn’t vegan-friendly. A US scientist led study in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, found that 84 per cent of patients surveyed were unaware that over 1,000 medications contain animal-derivatives, and 63 per cent wanted their doctors to inform them about the medications that contained these products. This shows that patients — vegan or omni — want to be made aware of this kind of information, and when taken with the respect for patient autonomy (the right of patients to make decisions about their medical care, without their provider trying to influence the decision), it provides support for the disclosure of animalderived constituents in patient care. Interestingly, 70 per cent of the physicians surveyed believed that providing their patients with this information was important — if only that was enough to lead to changes in practice. Doctors should not just presume that people are uninterested, they must be proactive and ensure they are giving patients individual care and all of the information they need.

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About Vegan Life

Welcome to our May issue. It’s undeniable that one of the best ways to advocate veganism to non-vegans is through food. There are so many wonderful and talented chefs creating mind-blowing vegan cuisine — the game has totally changed from a few years ago. The options for eating out have exploded, as we see unlikely meat-based chains even offering vegan options, and gone are the days of nibbling on a side salad, as plant-based food rightfully takes centre-stage in many restaurants. But, maybe you live somewhere with not so much choice, what happens then? Well, thanks to the range of brilliant cookbooks and videos available, anybody, no matter their location, can have a crack at a vegan showstopper. Recognising the need to make vegan food as appealing and appetising as possible, our cover stars, Ian Theasby and Henry Firth, created BOSH!, with the sole mission of bringing meat-free to the masses. We caught up with the innovators. Beauty is an another aspect of veganism that is growing rapidly, as cruelty-free, ethical and vegan products become more and more in demand. We rounded up some of our favourite items, brands and bloggers, as well as the ingredients you need to avoid. Finally, we had a really interesting debate this month, sparked by a feature written by Andrew Miles on the topic — is it easier for women to be vegan than men? Find out his, and our readers’, thoughts.

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