The Culture of Silence Can Be Dangerous For The Workplace
Leaders must do more to encourage speaking up
On March 29, 2005, Elaine, a healthy mother of two, was admitted to a hospital in England to correct a sinus problem she had suffered from for a couple of years. She was advised it would be sensible to have an operation to deal with the issue once and for all. “Don’t worry” the doctor had told her, “The risks are tiny. It’s a routine operation.”
But, not long after arriving on the operating table, things took a quick abrupt turn. An emergency arose shortly after the anaesthetic drugs were administered. Elaine’s airway had become obstructed, resulting in a severe deterioration of oxygen supply. Staff in the operating room then made repeated attempts at inserting an inflatable pouch into her mouth that will sit just above the airway, a procedure known as “laryngoscopy” followed by tracheal intubation — the standard protocol when ventilation is proving impossible, but all with no success.
During the futile attempts, her oxygen saturation dropped below a critical level and remained so for a while. Without ventilation or other breathing support, she was admitted to the ICU some hours later, where it became clear that she had suffered severe hypoxic brain damage and that recovery would not be possible.
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