Risky Business: James Bagian -- NASA Astronaut Turned Patient Safety Expert -- on Being Wrong

Name a high-stakes industry, and odds are James Bagian has been involved in trying to make it safer.  Bagian is, among other things, an engineer, an anesthesiologist, a NASA astronaut (he was originally scheduled to be on the fatal Challenger mission), a private pilot, an Air Force-qualified freefall parachutist, and a mountain-rescue instructor.  And that's to say nothing of his current job: director of the Veteran Administration's National Center for Patient Safety.  In that capacity, Bagian is responsible for overseeing the reduction and prevention of harmful medical mistakes at every VA hospital in the country.  You can read my interview with Bagian over at Slate, temporary home of The Wrong Stuff.


Okay, maybe you don’t have strong beliefs about the “right” way to load a dishwasher, or about your sweetheart’s propensity to do it “wrong.” In that case, either you are unusually saintly or (like me) you don’t own a dishwasher. But you almost certainly get involved in domestic disputes about who’s right and who’s wrong all the time; we all do. Although interpersonal arguments can have a number of causes – from serious and painful breaches in trust to the fact that we haven’t had our coffee yet – an impressive number of them amount to a tug-of-war over who possesses the truth. We fight over the right to be right.