In 2016, the British Medical Journal (BMJ), published a study that claims more than 250,000 Americans die from medical errors every year. A medical error is a negative healthcare outcome resulting from a preventable misapplication of standard practices of care.
Officially, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Only heart disease and cancer kill more people than medical errors according to official estimates.
But doctors are influential people, and they have a great deal of control over what happens in hospitals and what gets said, and reported in hospitals. It is worth asking, how many accepted medical interventions can be applied in ways that kill while allowing practitioners to classify an incident as unforeseeable or not preventable?
In other words, might accidental deaths actually be the second or even first leading cause of untimely deaths in the United States?
According to Sabriya Rice, a writer for Modern Healthcare, medical errors are not even being tracked by the medical establishment. That means, more often than not, when a medical error takes place- it is not recorded as a medical error- if at all.
According to Johns Hopkins professor, Martin Makay, when death results from a medical error- the events leading up to the negative patient outcome should be tracked back to the source. But accidental deaths resulting from medical error are not reported, according to Makay.
When you account for the fact that medical errors are not reported, plus the fact that many accepted interventions lead to negative outcomes and should be considered accidental- it becomes clear that medical errors are a major deadly threat to the lives of every person who passes through a hospital.
Twice as deadly as respiratory diseases, strokes, and Alzheimer’s, three times as deadly as diabetes, and responsible for six times more deaths in the US than suicide- medical error is the most problematic cause of death in the nation.
It is more problematic than cancer and heart disease because, in life, we have some expectation that these will occur in time. We frequently knowingly make choices that raise our risk of developing cancer and heart disease. We may smoke, eat indulgent food, linger inside electromagnetic fields, and so on. We risk these diseases willingly often times.
But no one says to himself, “This might put me in a situation where a nurse might inject me with the wrong medicine,” or “A doctor might perform the wrong surgery on me if I do this,” or “My pregnant wife might be given a pill that can trigger a spontaneous abortion.”
No one willingly risks medical error.
In 2014, Harvard Medical school issued a report claiming that doctors in the United States are willfully killing patients by the simple act of not washing their hands. “Doctors,” it said, “are killing most of the patients who die in hospitals.” The report also said that the CDC is studying the problem- but ignoring the real cause- which is irresponsible doctors who believe they are incapable of doing harm.
But the picture becomes even grimmer when you include the total of iatrogenic deaths (Deaths caused inadvertently by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures).
Adverse Drug Reactions: 106,000 – deaths per year
Medical error 98,000: – deaths per year
Bedsores 115,000: – deaths per year
Infection 88,000: – deaths per year
Malnutrition 108,800: – deaths per year
Outpatients 199,000: – deaths per year
Unnecessary Procedures 37,136: – deaths per year
Surgery-Related 32,000: – deaths per year
ADR/med error 420,000: – deaths per year
Grand Total = 999,936 deaths per year
Any time you find something grievously wrong with the outcome of the work of an institutional body, you can attribute it to accident, conspiracy, or both. It might be difficult to honestly say that the problem is due to some conspiracy that is limited to one country because rates of iatrogenic death are about the same in all industrialized western nations.
It might be instructive to look at a case from Canada in 2002 when death rates dropped while doctors were on strike. The BMJ reported that during a three-month strike of over 2000 doctors, hospital deaths dropped from approximately 3000 on average to fewer than 1000. A cursory look at the data suggests that doctors were causing more than 50% of hospital-related deaths in that region.
It’s clear that the problem we are dealing with is the arrogance and negligence of doctors, which is killing more people than the ancient phenomenon of disease itself.
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