In Australia, in 2001,
a three-year-old girl accidentally fell into an icy pond.
There she became lost
beneath the surface for an incredible half an hour.
And by the time she was found,
she had no pulse,
and her core temperature was only 18 degrees.
Furthermore, her eyes didn’t react to light,
indicating that her brain wasn’t functioning either.
Yet, a team of surgeons tried to save her.
As part of their complex procedure,
they would firstly crack her chest in half using a power saw.
This would have looked something like this.
Then they would connect her heart
to a extracorporeal membrane oxygenation system,
a unit which provides support to both the heart and lungs.
But, that wasn’t all.
Later on, they drew the hole into a skull
to monitor and adjust her cerebral pressures.
All in all, she was in comma for about a week.
Yet, amazingly only two weeks after her accident,
she was allowed to go home.
And after twenty months, she was completely back to normal.
It’s miraculous that doctors could save her
from such a near-death experience.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go as well.
As you can guess,
these medical procedures are incredibly complex
and mistakes happen all the time.
In fact it’s estimated that
medical errors kill between 200 and 10,000
and 440,000 people per year in America alone.
This makes it the third leading cause of death,
following heart disease and cancer.
Another study found out that within the intensive care units,
medical starts performed on average
178 actions per patient per day.
Now surprisingly, they only made a mistake
one percent of the time.
Yet, this still equates to about
two severe errors per patient per day.
The point is because these tasks are so complex.
It’s very easy to make a mistake.
So what have people done to remedy the situation?
One solution has been to use a checklist.
Now you wouldn’t expect something so simple to work.
But it’s surprisingly effective.
In one study by the World Health Organization,
a surgery checklist was implemented
in eight different hospitals, in eight different cities.
These items weren’t anything groundbreaking either.
Just stuff like checking for allergies,
checking that the equipment is sterile,
and confirming the patient’s identity.
Yet, the intervention led to a 47％ decrease in deaths.
It also meant the 36 percent decrease
in major post surgical complications.
It’s hard to believe that the checklist could work that well.
In fact, many doctors are actively resisting to use of checklist,
claiming it to be a waste of time.
This is understandable.
Items like washing your hands, seems so obvious.
But perhaps this is why checklists are so important.
With so many other things going on,
it’s very easy to overlook these basic steps,
Later studies have found that
the more of the checklists teams completed,
the lower the rate of complications.
Now, before all of this,
checklists were already used in a varity of fields
like aviation, workplace safety and software engineering.
But now, after seeing its success in surgery, too,
people have been tryingt to expand
the use of checklists into more domains.
For example, Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman
has suggested using the checklist of twelve cognitive biases,
when making a business decision.
This includes checking for things like confirmation bias,
which is when people ignore conflicting evidence.
Now, it’s not like these errors aren’t known by people.
It’s just that we’re not always aware of them.
So here, a checklist would force people
to switch to a more rational mindset,
when making a big decision.
Now, just to be clear,
there is no experiments that have tested
if checklists would work in a more day-to-day situation.
However, it definitely seems to help with complex tasks.
So, where can you apply checklists in your life?