1889 Institute study on Perfusionist Licensing: Law is Endangering Patients

The 1889 Institute, an Oklahoma state policy think tank, has published “Perfusionist Licensing in Oklahoma,” which calls for repealing the 23-year-old law licensing perfusionists. 
Perfusionists monitor and operate the machinery that regulates blood and air-flow during heart surgeries. Yet, as important as this task truly is, and despite the danger of having someone inattentive to the job in the operating room, most states do not license perfusionists.

“Fact is, the ultimate authority in the operating room, and the person in charge of finding and scheduling a qualified perfusionist, is the surgeon,” said Byron Schlomach, Director of the 1889 Institute. 

“Surgeons are incentivized by liability concerns to find a qualified perfusionist, and surgeons have to obtain hospital privileges, because, you guessed it, hospitals are concerned about liability as well, as they should be. Licensing boards face no such incentives, so it is highly questionable why we put such faith in them,” said Schlomach.

The 1889 Institute has previously published critiques of 11 other occupations licensed in Oklahoma, asking two simple questions: 1) Is it likely people will be significantly harmed if the occupation is not practiced properly? 2) Is there some reason markets and civil law fail to protect people? Both answers were “No” 11 times. This time, the first answer is “Yes,” but since the answer to the second is still “No,” perfusionists should not be licensed.

“The fact is that licensing just makes perfusionists scarcer than they otherwise would be, and since most perfusionist errors are made due to stress and fatigue from overwork, heart patients would be safer with more perfusionists around,” said Schlomach. “The legislature, once again, stepped directly on the Law of Unintended Consequences and added to our risk rather than making us safer,” he said.

Schlomach went on to say that he hopes the current Oklahoma Legislature will act to reverse the errors of the past so as to create an environment of greater opportunity and safety in the state.

About the 1889 Institute: The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society. The publication, “Perfusionist Licensing in Oklahoma” and other reports on licensing can be found on the nonprofit’s website at http://www.1889institute.org/licensing.