Medicine: No More Bedpan?

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To many a hospital patient, the worst ordeal of all is the indignity and discomfort of the bedpan. Nonetheless, doctors and nurses for years have stubbornly insisted on its use by the bedridden. In the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Manhattan Doctors Joseph Benton, Henry Brown and Howard Rusk report the results of a careful observation at Bellevue Hospital that may foreshadow the bedpan's end.

In their experiment, the doctors measured the relative amounts of oxygen consumed (and hence energy expended) by 24 patients (15 of them suffering from heart trouble) in alternate use of bedpans and bedside commodes. Their findings: "In all patients . . . there was a consistently greater oxygen consumption ... on the bedpan than on the commode . . .

"While it is obvious," the doctors conclude, "that the use of the bedpan causes psychological trauma, irritation and often resentment, the results of this study indicate that it is an unphysiological procedure from the standpoint of energy cost."