Yoga and the Medical Never Event

My career in the medical malpractice insurance industry has made me a discriminating consumer of healthcare.

As I write this, I am sitting in room 4423 at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, CA, with my husband who is three days orthopedic post-op. The surgery went as planned and was successful, as most procedures in American healthcare are. But on Tuesday morning, as I sat near the fishtanks in the surgical waiting area, I could only think about the procedures that don’t go well.

And in my line of work, those kinds of thoughts aren’t general in nature. They are incredibly specific; like what if the anesthesia alarms aren’t turned on and his oxygen levels drop, or what if there is an operating room fire, or what if they perform surgery on the wrong leg, or leave something behind in the surgical site, or infuse with the wrong blood type?

I think about the Never Events, because that is often what you see. In healthcare, a Never Event, also known as a Sentinel Event is an unanticipated event in the healthcare setting that results in the death or serious physical or psychological injury of a patient, not related to the natural course of that patient’s illness. In other words, an accident.


I had decided to enhance my enlightenment by working my way through Be Here Now by Ram Dass while my husband was in surgery.

I thought I chose this book because a graphical account of a Harvard psychologist on LSD who follows holy men through India seemed like less work than another book by B.K.S. Iyengar or Patanjali (no offense guys). But Ram Dass would say that the book was chosen for me and it was predetermined that I would read this book on Tuesday, August 9, 2016.

 “If you could stand back far enough and watch the whole process you would see YOU ARE A TOTALLY DETERMINED BEING. . . There are no accidents in this business at all.”–Ram Dass

The mention of accidents brought me back to Never Events because what this said was that the results of my husband’s surgery were already determined. By what or whom? By the law of karma.

The idea that my life could be governed by a Hindu system of cause and effect, like karma, in which my past actions, even past lives, determine my future isn’t really that far off the mark from what I was taught as a Christian. We have been “reaping what we sow”, per the Bible for hundreds of years.

But did that mean that a prayer for my husband during surgery was pointless because my husband’s karma had already determined the result and we were just waiting for “thy will to be done?” I was starting to see why so many Christian leaders are less than excited about the expansion of yoga in the West. Not to mention the fact that in Christianity, the only way for a person to receive forgiveness is through the grace of God. Karma is more of a bank accounting system based on debits and credits. But isn’t God still the bank president?

The good news is that my husband’s karma account must be pretty good, because he is just fine. There were no accidents.


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Photo credit: Be Here Now; Ram Dass; From Bindu to Ojas; p.14