Ontario's Anesthesiologists Criticize the Film Awake

    TORONTO, Nov. 30 /CNW/ - Ontario's Anesthesiologists expressed their
disappointment in the movie Awake, which was released nationwide in Canada
    Dr. Stephen Brown, Chair of Ontario's Anesthesiologists, a section of the
Ontario Medical Association, criticized the film, stating, "The film highly
distorts the practice of anesthesiology and the condition known as anesthesia
awareness, in a manner that is irresponsible and that could jeopardize the
ability of medical professionals to properly treat patients in need of
anesthesia care."
    Said Brown, "While we appreciate the fictional nature of the story, the
movie gets the science completely wrong. The greatest problem with this is the
effect it may have on patients, many of whom may become unnecessarily fearful
about necessary medical procedures. As doctors, we encourage patients to take
an active role in their care. I believe that this sort of misinformation will
impede patients in playing an educated role in their care."
    Among the inaccuracies of the film, Ontario's Anesthesiologists noted:

    -   The film and its publicity materials indicate that anesthesia
        awareness occurs to 1 out of every 700 patients undergoing general
        anesthesia. The actual incidence of the condition is likely closer to
        1 in 15,000 for routine surgeries. Further, the incidence of
        anesthesia awareness is much rarer in the vast majority of cases, and
        only approaches the 1 in 700 ratio if one considers very high risk
        cases such as in some traditional cardiac anesthesia and trauma

    -   The film indicates that anesthesia awareness is a condition in which
        the patient is fully paralyzed and fully awake. This is not usually
        true. While in the very rarest of cases this can occur, most forms of
        anesthesia awareness involve a slight sense of awareness of the
        surgical procedure, including possible memory of sound as well as a
        general awareness that the surgery is taking place - but not an
        experience of pain.

    -   The cardiac surgery conducted in the film was not conducted according
        to standard modern anesthetic procedures. More modern procedures
        lessen the incidence of anesthesia awareness and increase the ability
        of the anesthesiologist to detect and remedy any possibility of
        anesthesia awareness.

    -   The patient in the film (played by Hayden Christensen) was described
        as "paralyzed", but was in fact only partially immobilized, as
        evidenced by eye and facial movements These movements are indicators
        to the practising anesthesiologist which allow the anesthesiologist
        to detect the possibility of awareness.

    -   In the movie, anesthesia was apparently provided in a single, initial
        dose. In reality, for a general anesthetic, the anesthesiologist
        would administer an initial dose, but would continue to administer
        anesthetic during the entirety of the procedure, and would monitor
        the treatment throughout.

    -   The movie presented an anesthesiologist who was inattentive and
        intoxicated. This would obviously not be an acceptable level of care
        in Ontario hospitals.

    -   The pre-operative assessment of the patient in the movie was
        completely missing. Ontario's Anesthesiologists conduct a thorough
        interview with patients who are to undergo anesthesia. And, for
        complex surgeries, such as cardiac surgery, the anesthesiologist
        further assesses the patient at the time of surgery. This assessment
        allows the anesthesiologist to determine whether the patient is
        within a group that is at a higher risk for anesthesia awareness and
        to properly determine the form and amount of anesthesia to be

    Ontario's Anesthesiologists believe that patients and their families
should be involved in their treatment and should be well informed about their
medical options as well as any risks associated with treatment. However,
Ontario's Anesthesiologists are disappointed that the movie Awake has failed
to accurately portray anesthesia treatment and, as such, may have a negative
impact upon the proper treatment of patients.

    Ontario's Anesthesiologists, also known as the Ontario Medical
Association Section on Anesthesiology, represents over 1,000 anesthesiologists
across Ontario. The section has a mandate to work with government, the medical
community and patients to ensure quality anesthesia care for Ontarians.

For further information:

For further information: Ontario's Anesthesiologists, (416) 642-6336,
1-866-828-2226, Email: info@OntariosAnesthesiologists.ca

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