Zero is a Delusion
I get sent so many crazy scams (https://safetyrisk.net/how-to-run-a-safety-scam/ ) and links by people every day, associated with the delusion of zero. The latest is this one: The Patient Safety Movement (https://patientsafetymovement.org/ ). The language of the site says it all. ‘Zero is not just a number – it’s our mission’. Just watch a few videos from the website and you will see and hear the same kind of nonsense that you hear in the global zero safety industry. It’s language gobbledygook, it’s a delusion.
As much as we might like people not to be harmed no matter what reason, turning an admiration into an ideology masks delusional thinking. So, there it is on the home page, preventing death is attainable if the right conditions are made: ‘right people, ideas and technology’. And, what world would this be in? Is this the same world I live in? The one with fallible people, fallible systems, fallible organisations and fallible cultures? (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/ ). Any denial of fallibility is a delusion.
Just read the first page of this website and read all these assertions and assumptions and evangelical fervour. ‘To be human is to seek audacious goals’, who says so? No! To be human is to be conscious of the unconscious nature of fallible living, being and becoming, knowing that whatever comes your way, being resilient is critical.
When you see any claim for ‘belief’ in zero you will smell the trajectory of a religious movement. Any denial of fallibility has no option but to embark on such a trajectory. Just look at the latest video by the global safety industry ‘Spirit of Zero’ (https://visionzero.global/videos ; https://safetyrisk.net/the-spirit-of-zero/ ) and tell me that this is not so. When Zero becomes a metaphysical quest and mysterious power, you’re off with the fairies. Safety has a psychosis and needs some therapy. You can believe whatever mythology you want and make it you’re own alternative reality (https://safetyrisk.net/the-delights-of-the-zero-delusion/ ) but it won’t take long till your delusions will be busted by reality.
The problem with this ideology of perfect hospitals and perfect health care is that it offers false hope. Indeed, using the metaphor of a ‘moonshot’ reminds us of the Challenger disaster (https://www.britannica.com/event/Challenger-disaster ) and the realities and complexities of risk. False hope is actually worse for people than the foundational problem of fallibility itself. All delusions take people on a spiral down.
Of course, there is no such thing as belief in zero without conditions. It’s like any such ‘faith’ healing scam (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-as-faith-healing-2/ ) common in fundamentalist cults. When things go wrong, it because you didn’t have enough faith/belief (https://safetyrisk.net/blind-faith-in-safety/ ). Ah yes, when things go wrong the natural trajectory of any delusion is blame (https://safetyrisk.net/when-blame-comes-easy-a-lesson-from-job/ ). That way we don’t have to admit we were delusional.
However, there is a slight problem with all this zero in patient safety stuff, how did you get into the health system in the first place? Hmm, is it because life is fallible, systems are fallible, illness and misfortune are real? Is it because you are mortal, vulnerable and human that your body wears out, parts don’t work and entropy takes hold. Obviously, this ‘movement’ isn’t going to get a great following in nursing homes or palliative care! Ah yes, my goal is zero death (https://safetyrisk.net/my-target-goal-is-zero-death/ ).
Just watch this promotional video below and think for a second. Who is this person? Do they have expertise and experience in medicine? Of course not, why would that be important. It’s the same in safety. Our zero survey with over 3500 respondents from the industry (https://safetyrisk.net/take-the-zero-survey/ ) demonstrates that 95% of safety people don’t believe in zero ideology or zero propaganda.
Delusion is a psychosis, it’s about being out of touch with reality. Zero is the foundation for a mental health problem. It doesn’t matter what you wish or what you hope for, that doesn’t make it real. Yes, let do our best in what we do but let’s not hold to delusions with reality but rather focus on the need for resilience. Reject ‘bad faith’ (https://safetyrisk.net/actions-in-bad-faith/ ) for what it is, a delusion. Let’s have patient safety by all means but let’s not be dumb, blaming and unprofessional.