Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Idiot-proofing can have life-or-death implications

OK, this post is a little off-topic, but it pertains to one of Joel's favorite books -- "The Design of Everyday Things".

During the last five years, there have been at least 150 occasions where surgeons operated on the wrong body part (e.g., amputated the left leg instead of the right one).  In an attempt to prevent such tragedies, pre-surgical preparation has sometimes included the use of a felt-tip marker to write, for example, "Amputate This Leg" in big letters on the correct limb.  However, even these types of measures have not been enough:

[Begin quote]
"We have had two cases where the correct limb was marked but the wrong one was not, and, of course, the surgeon never went to the right one so operated on the wrong one," Dr. O'Leary said.
[End quote]

Primum non nocere
Friday, December 14, 2001

What I have heard is that rather than marking the correct leg, it is preferable to mark the wrong one with a big "NO!" or "not this one" or something.  Could be urban legend, tho.

A.Nonnie Mouse
Friday, December 14, 2001

My wife had outpatient knee surgery two weeks ago.  When she came home one knee had a bandage, the other had NO written on it.

Roy Harvey
Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Check out this "life and death" article from AskTog. 
It discusses the unusual interface in the plane John Denver was flying when he crashed.  It implicates the interface as a factor in his death.


Bob Crosley
Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Seeing that we're off topic...  :)

Do you *really* think poorly-designed cockpit controls were the major factor in John Denver's death?  I mean, come on!!!  Seeing that he had about 25 DUI arrests under his belt, my guess is that he was lit up like a Christmas tree.

Andy Shyne
Friday, December 21, 2001

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home