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Researchers: Medical errors now third leading cause of death in United States


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As people examine various causes of death, it is rare that a generic descriptor is applied like "due to old age". There's almost always a proximate cause, such as "heart failure" or such. Ultimate cause, of course, might be "heart disease" or "cancer" or even "old age", but there is always the convenient proximate cause to put down on the death certificate. Then, when statistics are assembled, you can say that f.ex. in the U.S. the #1 cause of death is CVD-related, #2 cancer etc. At which point, people can conscientiously look for ways to minimize the danger of getting CVD or cancer or other fatal morbidities. But that frequently is deceiving, because the ultimate cause is what matters. It's like saying the cause of sinking of the Titanic was "loss of buoyancy" - whereas the ultimate cause was hitting an iceberg.


So too with all these #1, #2, #3 etc. "causes of death" - all similar to "loss of buoyancy". But what is the ultimate cause? Apparently, a third of the causes, the "hitting an iceberg" is medical errors. A medical error occurs "you hit the iceberg", but the death is put down to as "CVD-related", never mind that the wrong drug was provided which triggered a heart-attack.


So, as you go down that list of causes of death, in an effort to protect yourself, make sure you are looking at ultimate causes, not just proximate causes.






"Their analysis, published in the BMJ on Tuesday, shows that "medical errors" in hospitals and other health care facilities are incredibly common and may now be the third leading cause of death in the United States -- claiming 251,000 lives every year, more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer's."


I thought of my best friend's grandmother (who lived to 104), who would tell us both, that she was terrified of hospitals, and fought tooth and nail not to go there. She'd say: "you go in, and then you come out in a coffin". She had no faith in the medical system. When she'd give us one of those dire speeches about never ever going to those "death houses", we'd both erupt in laughter (this was back in the 1980's), as we'd think of her as one of those colorful superstitious beliefs - she came from Russia at the turn of the 20th century, and we assumed that her beliefs were justified in the context of turn of the century Russian hospitals, which indeed were not much more than warehouses for the dying. Not for a second did it occur to us that she might be correct with regard to the modern U.S.. How little we knew.

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I guess it would be easy for anyone to get the original report, but here it is.  Wiki describes medical errors to have many causes, such as diagnostic errors, and I imagine those such as the Case Report described in the paper are few and far between.  People seeking medical attention are often ill.




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