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

May 1, 2008

*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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If you tug on the kitty’s tail…

January 18, 2008

I should warn you that this post may seem insensitive (it probably is), so if you are easily angered or particularly liberal in your line of thought, you may wish to not read this one.

You have probably heard of these teenage guys who went to the San Francisco Zoo for a fun day out and ended up getting mauled by ‘Tatiana’, a cute name for a 350 lb. killing machine. Unfortunately, one of these guys died from his injuries.

Anytime human life is needlessly or senselessly lost it is a tragedy. I am truly sorry and sympathetic for the family of the 17 year old who lost his life. His final moments were spent enduring what is probably the most horrific of all ways to go.

Some interesting news has been released today, however. It seems that these well publicized walls that were shorter than the standards for tiger enclosures may not have been the only cause. As I have suspected since first hearing this story, it turns out that adolescent guys, lots of alcohol, and a 350 lb. carnivorous animal all occupying the same 50 foot radius is a really bad idea.

This morning, one of the boys attacked by the tiger admitted that the trio had spent the day drinking. His blood alcohol level was .16, twice the legal limit for driving. He also admitted that they climbed to the top of and stood atop the 3 foot tall metal fence next to the moat protecting the visitors from the tiger (or tiger from the visitors, I suppose). They then yelled and waved at the tiger for a number of minutes, but still insist that they didn’t throw anything at it.

Tatiana does not eat fruits or vegetables. You probably woke up this morning and had a bowl of cereal – she doesn’t eat that either. She eats meat, and meat alone, which is usually hard to come by in the wild. So when she woke up to see our three young Einstein’s waving and yelling at her, she must have thought she had died and woken up in tiger heaven. Little did she know that following her natural instincts would lead to her death a few hours later.

Darwin Award candidates?

This may sound cruel, but let’s see: I’m at the zoo. I’m drunk. As a matter of fact I’m hammered. One of my buddies suggests that we go climb inside the tiger pit. The end result here is fairly obvious.

The fact that ‘Tatiana’ had never attacked anyone before has seemed to be irrelevant since this story was first released. All of the focus has been on the fact that these ‘moat walls’ were too short. Why hasn’t there been any attention paid to the fact that these guys were essentially setting this sequence up from the get go?

This is indeed a symptom of one of the biggest problems facing the modern U.S.- the fact that we have no sense of accountability. Some examples: If your kid is walking at Virginia Kendall Ledges and falls off a cliff while you aren’t watching, it isn’t because you were negligent – it is because there were no ‘safety railings’. If your dog bites your un-leashed neighbor’s dog as it climbs into your fenced-in yard, you have a vicious dog that is going to be put down. If you shoot a thief in the leg as he breaks into your house, you are getting sued for assault w/ a deadly weapon. And likewise, if you are hammered and tease an animal that has evolved for the past thousand years to survive by eating other animals, it sure as hell isn’t your fault – the walls should have been three feet higher.

Is this what we want our society to be? Is this really the best we can do? Maybe we can learn what should be obvious from this story… that it is a bad idea to get blitzed and tease a tiger. And maybe this makes me cold hearted, but I will be teaching my children that if you pull on the kitty’s tail, the result is no one’s fault but your own.

EDIT: Since this story broke, I have heard the blame for this guy’s death placed on the tiger, the police, the zoo, the emergency response units, etc… everyone except the kids who provoked this tiger in the first place. The point of this post is that although we have tried (and are still trying) to make the world a sterile, completely danger free environment, perhaps the best way to protect ourselves and our loved ones is by using some common sense. Moreover, when we don’t use common sense and it quite literally ‘bites us in the ass’, maybe we should take some responsibility for our actions and learn from our mistakes rather than blaming others. I wish nothing but the best for the family and friends of the 17 year old who lost his life.