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Merits of International Medical Conferences Debated

Doctors discuss pros and cons of replacing live conferences with videoconferences

FRIDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- Are international medical conferences an outdated luxury the planet can't afford? That's the subject of a "Head to Head" debate published in the June 28 issue of BMJ.

Taking the "yes" position, Malcolm Green, M.D., of Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, argues that international medical conferences adversely affect the environment and each year produce 600,000 tons of carbon, an amount similar to the sustainable carbon emissions for a half-million people in India or the carbon dioxide absorbed by 120 million mature trees covering 120,000 hectares of rainforest. He states that face-to-face conferences could effectively be replaced by videoconferences that allow for questions and answers during real-time sessions.

Taking the "no" position, James Owen Drife, M.D., of Leeds General Infirmary in Leeds, U.K., argues that doing away with face-to-face conferences would have a minuscule effect on global warming and deprive doctors of inspirational personal interactions. He states that videoconferences are a poor substitute for genuine communication and calls them even less effective than cell-phone conversations.

"Our grandchildren will view with amazement our profligacy and inefficiency in flying across continents in great clusters to exchange information…We must be bold and act now to plan and welcome the new world of information transfer," Green writes. According to Drife, on the other hand: "Conferences can also stimulate global action. The 1964 Declaration of Helsinki would have had less effect on research ethics if it had been the 1964 group e-mail."

Full Text - Green
Full Text - Drife

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