APSF Addresses JAMA

Ellison C. Pierce, Jr., MD

[Editor’s Note: Reprinted here is a letter submitted to the Journal of the American Medical Association by the Executive Director of the APSF in response to a major editorial regarding national efforts to reduce patient injury from medical errors.]

Letter to the Editor:

The recent Editorial, "Promoting Safety by Preventing Medical Error,"(1) was timely and appropriate. It is unfortunate, however, that there was no mention of the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF). The fact that a coordinated effort to improve patient safety can be successful has been clearly demonstrated by the APSF, founded in 1985. Indeed, the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) was directly modeled upon the APSF.

It is important to recognize that anesthesia patient safety efforts were the very first of such endeavors; in fact we believe that we coined the phrase "patient safety." We think that the undertakings have resulted in a substantial decrease in anesthesia related mortality in the last fifteen years, from an estimated 1 per 10,000 anesthetics to an estimated 1 per 200,000 for low risk patients.

We congratulate those who are taking patient safety to a broader plane. However, history should correctly record, and others can still currently learn from, what is clearly a very successful, pioneering effort in anesthesia.

Ellison C. Pierce, Jr., MD Boston, MA

1. Leape LL, Woods DD, Hatlie MJ, Kizer KW, Schroeder SA, Lundberg GD. Promoting patient safety by preventing medical error. JAMA. 1998;280:1444-1447.