Are There Really That Many Medical Error Deaths?


You may have seen the headlines that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in this country.  If you are like me, who does not trust the media, your immediate thoughts were “bullshit”.  Luckily I found this site which broke down the nonsense.  Read this article in detail but here are the highlights for you:

  • To get their estimate that medical errors cause 251,454 deaths a year among hospitalized patients in the United States, the authors essentially averaged error-related death rates from four prior studies and then extrapolated it to the number of hospitalized patients today.
  • If the researchers had really wanted to update the estimate for the modern age, they should have dug into patient records and made tough decisions about which deaths were truly due to errors — in other words, they should have done their own analysis.
  • The authors of the BMJ report define “medical error” as any action “that does not achieve its intended outcome” or any planned action that, for whatever reason, is not done “that may or may not cause harm to the patient.” This definition is uselessly broad.
  • By any decent definition, some errors are obvious, such as when a doctor or nurse gives a patient a wrong and deadly dose of a drug. But many “errors” exist in a gray zone. Say a doctor delays sending a patient to the intensive care unit and she later dies. Would she have died had she been transferred to the ICU 45 minutes sooner?
  • The BMJ article, and the subsequent reporting about it, continue a trend where the public is wrongly told that all deaths are the same. They aren’t.
  • The new estimate of 251,454 deaths matters because the sensational figure is imprecise and may be wrong by a large magnitude. The renewed attention on medical errors in hospitals might be good, prompting doctors to take it more seriously. But it could be harmful if it scares some people away from getting the care they need.
  • Here’s how I would summarize the BMJ report: The authors made a number of reasonable proposals so we can better understand medical errors, which probably happen often but honestly aren’t something we have a good definition for and don’t do a good job of measuring or tracking.

So why did I know this study was BS?  Because of the headline. C’mom, does anyone really think our doctors are that bad?  It is a covert mission for insurers, hospitals and administrators to make the public believe that doctors are bad and need to be controlled and watched. I clipped the above image from the original NPR article and when I saved it I realized the pic was save under the name “doctor-failure_custom-0640e06948eeb7143273ab9f2902979b128f7c08-s800-c85”.

Doctor failure?  No one else, just doctors?

Child, please.

85050cookie-checkAre There Really That Many Medical Error Deaths?