Saving lives and healing people makes up the image we generally have of doctors and other health care professionals. While they perform these admirable tasks, sometimes they do just the opposite, hasten someone’s trip to the grave. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) released a Consensus Report (we all know how important consensus is) stating that
“At least 44,000 people, and perhaps as many as 98,000 people, die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented,….
Note that that is just in hospitals.
To pretend to be fair, the American College of Physicians disputes this finding in an article titles “How Many Deaths Are Due to Medical Error? Getting the Number Right”. Curiously, they never come up with a number. I doubt they want to as the actual number may be worse than the one they dispute.
While 44,000 to 98,000 sounds really, really bad, Scientific American spotlighted a 2009 Hearst Corporation report that the number had doubled in the previous decade.
An estimated 200,000 Americans will die needlessly from preventable medical mistakes and hospital infections this year, according to “Dead By Mistake,” a wide-ranging Hearst national investigation,…
This report cites the IOM report as the basis for the doubling of deaths. Perhaps, the number of deaths was that high all along. If the IOM was flawed as the American College of Physicians claims, the number in 1999 could have been higher, not necessarily lower. Whatever the number – 44,000, 98,000 or 200,000 – it puts death by medical error in the top ten causes of death in the U.S. Indeed, doctors are much more likely to kill you than someone else with a gun. (Ironically, according to the linked article, you’re more likely to kill yourself with a gun than someone else kill you with a gun. Oh, the joy of statistics!)
But, at best, these numbers only include reported incidents and cases that meet the criteria needed to attribute the death to medical error. What about the unreported cases? I’m sure each of us can recount several such cases ourselves. My own brother’s death from AIDS was accelerated by by a personal physician who refused to test him for being HIV positive because the doctor just didn’t believe my brother could be HIV positive, despite the persistent pneumonia. Or, the woman my father knew who died of a brain tumor because her personal physician believed she was a hysterical woman having migraines. Or, this kid who committed suicide after becoming addicted to Adderall. How many of the 100 people who die from overdoses every day in the U.S. die from drugs legally obtained via prescriptions?
During 2010, “10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes”. A number that we, as a society, get all riled up about. Yet a very small number when compared to death by medical error. In England/Wales, they estimate more people die from lack of hand washing by doctors and medical personnel than by “drink driving.”
“Given the existence of MRSA, not having clean wards and not washing your hands is the clinical equivalent of drink driving. It maims and kills.”
When I was in charge of admissions at a nursing home many years ago, we wouldn’t accept any patients with MSRA infections because it was so nasty and deadly. There’s no reason to believe doctors in the U.S. wash their hands more frequently than doctors in England/Wales. The article at that link says as many as 1 in 5,20%, don’t wash their hands between patients. Citing a study WebMD states:
Upwards of one-half of doctors don’t wash their hands between visits with hospital patients, a new study shows. It’s a big infection control concern in hospitals because dirty hands transmit germs to other patients.
It’s quite reasonable to assume death from medical treatment stands even greater than currently reported. This issue alone makes much of the hysterical gun violence freaks hysterical look like the Chicken Littles running around they are. In addition to the right to bear arms being an “unalienable Right” necessary for us to protect our lives and liberty, any danger to others resulting from the right to bear arms is not nearly as great as many would have you believe.