While he may be known for famously landing a passenger jet on the Hudson River in 2009, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is now taking heroic measures in an effort to reduce medical errors in the United States.
According to Sully, if even half as many people were killed in airplane crashes as are killed because of medical errors, the aviation industry would come to a screeching halt and drastic measures would be taken. But up to 200,000 people are killed each year as a result of medical errors, and very little is being done.
Sully flies all over the country trying to convince legislators and other policy makers that now is the time to take action. After retiring from aviation, Sully learned that politics play a major role in health care. His hope is to make patient safety an issue that everyone can get on board with.
Like aviation, Sully said health care is complex and medical errors are seldom the fault of one doctor or one nurse. Instead, faulty systems, communication lapses and poor attention to detail are often to blame. The problem is that it is taking far too long to identify these problems and make changes, he said.
One bit of advice Sully feels the medical field can take from the aviation field is the importance of following checklists, he said. Both flying a plane and conducting an operation involve extremely detailed and complicated work. That’s why Sully believes surgeons would benefit from similar checklists that are required of pilots.
Additionally, instead of sweeping medical mistakes under the rug, Sully said they should be exposed and carefully studied to determine what went wrong, and to learn from them. That approach seems to work in the aviation field, anyway.
Like the work being done by this famous and heroic pilot, medical malpractice lawsuits also bring attention to the devastating problem of medical errors in this country. A medical malpractice lawsuit not only compensates the victim (or their family) for the injuries suffered, but also reminds the medical field that someone is watching.
Source: Politico, “‘Miracle’ pilot on mission against medical errors,” Kyle Cheney, Aug. 1, 2013