“What about the safe surgery checklist?” — Dr. Peter Benton

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In January 2009 the New England Journal of Medicine published an article about the World Health Organization’s surgical safety checklist. (See this post for more information.) On March 12, the checklist was a key player in a scene in an episode of ER, and it helped save Dr. John Carter’s life. (See Dr. Peter Benton holding the checklist in the above image; the episode is no longer available for viewing.)

On March 16 this story became big news: ER episode puts safe-surgery checklist on the Hollywood map (Globe & Mail) and the story was picked up widely in the news and in the blogosphere:

“I have to tell you it got to me in a way I never anticipated,” the team’s leader, Atul Gawande of the Harvard School of Public Health, said in an e-mail. “Producing a checklist that could save lives is what we on our team at the World Health Organization spent the better part of two years working to make happen. And underneath it all is a cultural change for surgery exactly like ER depicted on a screen – a change from seeing ourselves as solo agents to effective teams.  But you begin to wonder if anyone is going to get it. What those few minutes showed me is that everyone will.” Download the checklist.

Watch a real surgical team in Toronto use the checklist.


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