Medications, Pills, Western medicine

The Jama Study Western Medicine

In 2000, Dr Barbara Starfield published a study in JAMA study showing that 225,000 Americans die from causes related to a physician’s or hospital’s activity, therapy or manner appropriately applied. This is what the study showed:

  • 80,000 die from hospital-acquired infections
  • 106,000 die from the negative side effects of drugs taken as prescribed
  • 12,000 die from unnecessary surgery
  • 7,000 die from medication errors in hospitals
  • 20,000 die from other errors in hospitals

That amount has increased by 25,000 people annually from a new study from the British Medicinal Journal (BMJ) that now estimates 250,000 Americans die each year from the same medical error on the part of a physician or hospital. If this is true than why does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently name respiratory illnesses as the 3rd leading cause of death?

Interpreting Data

“It’s the way you collect and interpret the data”, say researchers at Johns Hopkins say the CDC’s method for collecting this data is flawed. The article in Newsweek says the, ”Death certificates currently don’t have a separate coding classification for medical errors, which means estimates are not accurate. The medical coding system used by the CDC was originally developed for physicians and hospitals to determine what to bill health insurance companies for individualized patient care.”

With most statistics I wonder how much this number is being underestimated due to the procedure for reporting medical errors. The author says that the numbers used where very conservative so I think it’s safe to say the number is higher than the reported 225,000 death each year.

How could this be since the U.S. has the most expensive health care in the world? Bigger than several other countries put together and despite that the U.S. ranks behind those other countries that spend less.

The American medical system is designed for treating life threatening occurrences and for emergency care accidents that need surgical intervention. It is not effective for treating chronic disease or designed for preventative disease.

US Health Care System Is a Failure at Treating Chronic Illness

The common wealth fund report compares the U.S. with 10 other countries France, Australia, Germany, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K. and found that although the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world, the nation ranks lowest in terms of “efficiency, equity and outcomes,” according to the report.

The Method of Reporting Is The Problem

Currently there is no option for reporting deaths due to medical fault or error. In this Newsweek article

“The researchers for the study from Johns Hopkins say their findings suggest the CDC’s method for collecting data on causes of death is flawed, leading to inaccurate estimates on just how dangerous a visit to your local hospital has become.

Death certificates currently don’t have a separate coding classification for medical errors, which means estimates are not accurate.

The medical coding system used by the CDC was originally developed for physicians and hospitals to determine what to bill health insurance companies for individualized patient care. The authors recommend an overhaul of how cause of death data is collected.”

An example of this is Dr. Starfield’s death which resulted in an iatrogenic death. Upon autopsy it was determined that a cerebral hemorrhage was the underlying condition that lead to her drowning in a pool. She was taking a combination of Plavex and asprin which both thin the blood. In the August 2012 issue of Archives for Internal Medicine her husband, Dr. Neil A. Holtzman, writes, partially:

“Writing in sorrow and anger, I express up front my potential conflict of interest in interpreting the facts surrounding the death of my wife, Dr. Barbara Starfield, … Because she died while swimming alone, an autopsy was required. The immediate cause of death was ‘pool drowning,’ but the underlying condition, ‘cerebral hemorrhage,’ stunned me …

Barbara started taking low-dose aspirin after coronary insufficiency had been diagnosed three years before her death, and clopidogrel bisulfate (Plavix) after her right main coronary artery had been stented six months after the diagnosis. She reported to the cardiologist that she bruised more easily while taking clopidogrel and bled longer following minor cuts. She had no personal or family history of bleeding tendency or hypertension.

The autopsy findings and the official lack of feedback prompted me to call attention to deficiencies in medical care and clinical research in the United States reified by Barbara’s death and how the deficiencies can be rectified. Ironically, Barbara had written about all of them.”

Western Medicine Testing and Treatment That Do Harm

A report from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine estimated that roughly 30 percent of health care spending in 2009 — around $750 billion — was wasted on unnecessary or poorly delivered services and other needless costs.

Roughly a quarter of all hospitalized patients will be harmed by a medical error of some kind. These medical errors cost the U.S. health-care system tens of billions a year. Some 20% to 30% of all medications, tests and procedures are unnecessary, according to research done by medical specialists, surveying their own fields.

So What Can You Do

The first step is to become aware of the facts regarding the issue. Knowledge is power. Since this is such a large problem involving high numbers of people each year there really should be a conversation between health professionals and the public and how to proceed in the best way forward to guarantee optimal public health. I personally think that alternatives adjective therapies should be integrated into Western medicine as a way to implement preventative care in a system clearly lacking that ability. Preventive medicine and trauma medicine together create a powerful system of health care.

It’s also essential that the people providing care, doctors and nurses get the support they need. This is increasingly difficult with deficiencies in the current health care system putting more burden on these health providers. Patient doctor time and patient loads per doctor are a problem. Doctors have become victims of a continued degradation of the U.S. health care system especially with increased patient loads and mandated patient time limites by HMOs.


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