Saturday, June 25, 2005

Hats Off to the Anesthesiologists

Thanks to John Kelly who calls my attention to the anesthesia and safety story that appeared in the June 21, 2005 issue of the Wall Street Journal under the by-line of Joseph T. Hallinan.

Many of you will have seen the article, which recounts how the American Society of Anesthesiologist reacted to the malpractice insurance problem by improving safety rather than by lobbying for legal means of reducing claims. Over the past two decades, patient deaths due to anesthesia have declined to one death per 200,000 to 300,000 cases from one for every 5,000 cases. Anesthesiologists now typically pay some of the smallest malpractice premiums around, a huge change from when they were considered among the riskiest doctors to insure.

The general story has appeared in other publications, as well.

In transmitting the article, John’s comment was “In all the hand wringing about leadership for improved quality and safety, the story of the field of anesthesiology stands as a consistent reminder that doing the right thing actually does pay long term dividends.”

I would add that it shows the value of responsible professionalism, of which we see too little. Although some of what the ASA did could also have been done by any large hospital that was paying attention to patient safety, other parts of it benefited greatly by the ability of the ASA to collect and analyze large amounts of data collected nationally.

The full article is a worth-while read and can be found at:


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