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Surprising Science

A Doctor’s Notes on Saving 100,000 Lives Per Year

It may not be brain surgery to follow every step on a checklist but, as today’s guest, Atul Gawande explains, enforcing something so simple as a mandatory protocol for every patient could prevent a large majority of the 2,000,000 infections and 100,000 deaths suffered every year in hospitals by medical missteps as straightforward as a doctor not washing his/her hands.

Small implementations such as this, like calling in to patients homes to verify that they are taking their medication, are part of the myriad partial reforms that can be done at the level of healthcare to make medical services more affordable and cost effective (and to stop punishing the innovative programs that are improving outcomes).

Dr. Gawande also discusses some of the fascinating dynamics that are unique to a doctor: the terrifying feeling of first cutting into a human body, the awkward ramifications of operating on friends, and the ethical ambiguities of treating a patient that you know cannot afford to cover the surgery.


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