We are afraid of Heart Disease, but what about the “Unknown Killer”?

*Note: This post is at least partially intended to infuriate doctors and those studying medicine… hehehehe : ).

Recently, my uncle was hospitalized after having a shortness of breath… they soon found that he was very, very sick. Upon seeing what goes on at hospitals, it got me to thinking. This post is the result of my (very brief and not at all scientific) studies…

We are all very aware that heart disease is published as the leading cause of death in the U.S. (652,486 deaths in 2004 according to the CDC). Cancer comes in at a close second at 553,888 deaths. Strokes are third at 150,074. This is all very eye-opening, maybe even scary (those numbers are pretty intimidating), but what kills even more people (as best anyone can tell) than heart disease? The answer is a little-known condition called Iatrogenesis… what is Iatrogenesis, you ask? It is officially defined as “a state of ill health as a result of medical treatment”. Almost unbelievably, doctors are one of the leading causes of death in the modern U.S.!!!

Estimates range from 220,000 a year to 750,000 deaths a year, depending on your source. This fact (that various sources do not agree on the exact number) is disturbing in itself. Is it really possible that 500,000 people are dieing per year as a result of seeing a medical professional?

A quick search on the internet will yield a plethora of well documented cases regarding Iatrogenesis.
I can almost hear doctors rushing to there own defense now… “Medicine is a field in which an inherent amount of danger is present as a result of the limited amount of knowledge that we have of the human body/immune system!”.

At first, I could sympathize… after all, they are doing their best, right?

This is where the story gets interesting… again, estimates vary, but a common number among a variety of sources seems to indicate that almost 100,000 people a year are hospitalized unnecessarily. On top of that, 12,000 people a year die as a result of unnecessary surgery. UNNECESSARY SURGERY?! What the heck is that? Is it possible that doctors recommend surgery as a result of economic motivations?

I used to support the concept of tort reform… I used to think that doctors had it rough due to their own insurance costs… but 500,000 people die a year after seeking their services?

This may sound harsh, but I cannot fathom any other profession in which 500,000 “errors” that result in deaths a year would be acceptable…

Before we scream for tort reform in the area of medical practice liability, maybe it is time for the doctors of the U.S. to get it together!

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One Response to We are afraid of Heart Disease, but what about the “Unknown Killer”?

  1. whenispark says:

    Bah – of course I will comment…

    “almost 100,000 people a year are hospitalized unnecessarily. On top of that, 12,000 people a year die as a result of unnecessary surgery. UNNECESSARY SURGERY?! What the heck is that? Is it possible that doctors recommend surgery as a result of economic motivations?”

    First, I don’t disagree with this post – so nice try Dave. There is a shocking amount of medical error resulting in death of patients – which is why I avoid doctors. That’s why doctors don’t like going to doctors in general.

    Also, you might be surprised, but medical schools generally have so much invested in students that it is in their best interest to pass them. On multiple occasions I know students have failed a clerkship, only to have the school contact that clerkship director, and have the grade changed. I know one student – and it scares me that he may be a doctor some day.

    HOWEVER – tort reform and medical practice go hand in hand. Many people are unnecessarily hospital because of CYA medicine – aka “Cover Your Ass” Medicine. Because JUST IN CASE…because if you don’t admit that patient and they have that ONE thing that could kill ’em that is low on your differential, and they die? You’re going down. So it’s not to make more money, it’s to avoid liability. Unfortunately, it puts some patients at risk for the opposite reason.

    As to people dying in the hospital – good lord I will avoid the hospitals at all cost, with the exception of working at one. I advise you to do the same.

    And don’t worry, “Iatrogenic” is ALWAYS high on our lists of differentials – docs aren’t ignorant to it. I could show you a couple of text books.

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