Avoiding the emergency room

Diana Hsieh interviews Dr. Doug McGuff about avoidable injuries and deaths.

He’s an emergency room physician in South Carolina, so he’s pretty much just talking about what he’s seen—different regions have different characteristic injuries.

He says that you’re safest in the largest car you can afford, which raises some interesting ethical issues.

There’s a fair amount about the risks of getting overfocused on getting something done. This adds tremendously to the hazards of using ladders.

Also, did you know trees can go sproing? One of hazards of chainsaws is that a good bit of energy might be stored in a twisted tree trunk. Don’t just know your physics, apply it!

More generally, there are machines and situations (ATVs, chainsaws, airplanes, skiing, etc.) which tend to make people feel more competent than they are.

On the other hand, injuries from rock climbing and horseback riding are less common than you might think. I don’t know why the ancestral environment didn’t give people a reflexive distaste against diving into water. Perhaps people back then had too much sense to dive much.

One of the pieces of advice—to get out of stressful relationships—is too general. This is mostly a good idea, but from what I’ve read, leaving a violent relationship can lead to more risk of violence. It’s still a good idea to leave, but it’s important to leave cautiously.

Both McGuff and Hsieh are objectivists, so some of the discussion might be in mind-killer territory.

Edited to add: It’s possible that objectivism would be better discussed under a new post. It’s certain that there’s a bunch of interesting material in the podcast, and avoidable accidents are worth discussing.

Topic list:

  • “Black swans” of health and “The Dirty Dozen”

  • #1: Driving a car or motorcycle

  • #2: Riding an ATV

  • #3: Biking or jogging on public roads

  • #4: Flying a plane or helicopter yourself

  • #5: Getting into a fight

  • #6: Lighting a gas grill

  • #7: Diving into water

  • #8: Using ladders and chainsaws

  • #9: Retiring and building your dream house

  • #10: Allowing yourself to be forced into a car or trunk at gunpoint

  • #11: Staying in stressful relationships

  • #12: Winning the lottery

  • Dr. McGuff’s history with risky sports

  • The risks of other sports

  • How to survive the ER