Thought for the Day: The Deadly Doctor’s Guild

What would you name a society whose business was how many people get killed by doctors?

This is a question I am prompted to ask from reading Top Screwups Doctors Make – And How to Avoid Them by Joe and Terry Graedon, of NPR The People’s Pharmacy fame.

They talk about medical errors – which is a hot button issue.

People keep claiming each number that is proposed is an underestimate and “the real number” keeps climbing.

The generally accepted estimate these days is in the 400,000 range – making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

In this book the Graedon’s talk about the “iatrogenic death toll” (Iatrogenic being misadventure “induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon by a medical treatment or diagnostic procedure” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary).

They claim if you add deaths from medications and infections acquired in hospitals and nursing homes, misdiagnosis, excessive radiation, unnecessary surgery, post operative complications, blood clots from surgery with immobilization and other misadventures that doctors visit upon their patients, that this death rate, from iatrogenic causes, is 700,000 a year – which is more than heart disease and cancer.

But they lament the lack of outrage that this produces.

“If medical mistakes and misadventures were a disease” they go on to say “we would have an organization comparable to the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society.”

But what would you call such an organization?

2 Responses

  1. I was reading your book (I am loving your book, by the way, I feel like I learn something new with each page), and I checked out the sites that let you basically see hospital stats - for things like infection rates, surgical successes, and average cost-of-visit. I compared my local hospitals, and was happy to see how relatively well-rated they seem to be (and that they're pretty close in most ratings).
    • Glad you like the book - but looking for the places where you get info' about quality of care from different hospitals is a really good thing to do if you are needing to be admitted. Or maybe and essential thing to do.

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