Flat White

Give it to me straight, Doc

18 December 2018

2:23 PM

18 December 2018

2:23 PM

Here’s a statistic you wouldn’t read about – at least not in any medical association playbook.

John Hopkins University in Baltimore Washington DC has published the results of a study of medical deaths over an eight-year period and discovered that the third highest cause of death in the United States was medical error.

Patient safety experts at John Hopkins calculated that more than 250,000 deaths in the US each year are due to medical error, exceeding the deaths from respiratory disease that kills almost 150,000 people each year.


You can of course relax. When we put the medical error figure into a context, it can be seen that these deaths are the result of errors and are not the result of bad doctors. In fact, the study says that most errors:

[R]epresent systemic problems, including poorly coordinated care, fragmented insurance networks, the absence or underuse of safety nets, and other protocols, in addition to unwarranted variation in physician practice patterns that lack accountability.

 

The significance of this study, therefore, is that while you might be accidentally killed by ‘the system’ if you are seeking medical assistance in the US, you have only a slight chance of being accidentally shot. In 2014, there were less than 500 accidental shooting death. It was the same in 2015. Total gunshot homicides in the United States in 2014 were a bit over 8,000.

As you can see, the risks of death from medical malpractice, therefore, are 500 times greater than death from accidental shooting and about 30 times higher than for a firearm homicide. So beware. Provided you are not drawn into the medical system, you are relatively safe.  Sure you might get mugged crawling through the Bronx or even shot in Chicago (by the police), but don’t get sick and you have a good chance of surviving.

It seems the road to heaven may well be paved with good intentions — wearing scrubs.

David Long is a retired solicitor, economist and PhD candidate at Griffith University, School of Law.

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