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One afternoon during my surgical training, I received a call from an intern, a first-year doctor-in-training; she wanted me to place a central line, a specialized catheter inserted in a major vein for intravenous access. Because of the patient’s previous procedures, I would have to put his line in the subclavian vein, a vessel that courses along the top of the chest, precariously close to the lungs.

“No problem,” I told the intern over the phone. I had done over a hundred of them previously without a single complication.

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