Patient safety is, and should be, our major calling card. Eighteen years ago, the Institute of Medicine recognized anesthesiology as a leader in patient safety in its monumental report To Err Is Human, published in 2000. The authors of this study point out that greater focus has been made on comprehension of those facets of anesthesia care that might lead to error. With that increased focus, safer anesthesia systems were designed, and the death rate from general anesthesia fell from one in 5,000 in the 1980s to one in 200,000-300,000 in the 1990s. Many of us with several years under our belts will recall some of those improvements in the 1980s – pulse oximetry, end tidal gas analysis (especially for carbon dioxide and inhalational anesthetic concentration) and fiberoptic intubation for patients with potentially difficult airways.

Still, in...

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