Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Ethics Man

Preparing for when things go wrong

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 25 August 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4627
  1. Daniel Sokol, medical ethicist and barrister
  1. 12 King’s Bench Walk, London
  1. Sokol{at}

What doctors can learn from astronauts

During his basic training as a fighter pilot, the astronaut Chris Hadfield was flying his jet in close formation, with jets immediately to his right and left, when he noticed a bee inside his helmet. Losing his cool would have endangered his life and those of his colleagues. Years later, in 2001, Hadfield was out on a space walk, holding on to the side of a spaceship travelling at more than 28 000 km an hour around the earth. He first lost his vision in one eye, and then the other. Again he kept calm. About 20 minutes later he recovered enough sight to complete the mission. He had been blinded by the anti-fog detergent used the evening before to clean his visor. …

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