The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, Metropolitan Books, 224 Pages, $24. 50, Hardcover, January 2010, ISBN 9780805091748 Atul Gawande is the Malcolm Gladwell of medical and ethical writing, with one big difference: Gawande is not just a cultural observer who tells great stories; instead he is a practicing surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School and, as a true insider who happens to be a very talented writer for The New Yorker, his work is precise and detailed while also elegant and arresting. The Checklist Manifesto is the author’s third book and he continues along the same theme of his previous works by revealing flaws in medical care and pondering larger ethical dilemmas that can contribute to the loss of life.
[C]hecklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us—flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness. And because they do, they raise wide, unexpected possibilities.Ultimately, checklists are about consistency, about preparing in times of calm a strategy to handle emergencies. As with his previous books, in The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande asks of professionals one key thing: to be humble enough to admit one's own humanity and take simple steps to prevent simple errors that are all too often very costly. And perhaps what is most admirable about Gawande is that he does not leave himself out of this request, admitting to his own mistakes and allowing us a glimpse at his own fallibility and that very humility that is needed to improve ourselves.