Dr. Rath Health Foundation

Responsibility for a healthy world Receipient of the "Relay of Life" from the Auschwitz Survivors

Death By Medicine

A definitive review and close reading of medical peer-review journals, and government health statistics shows that American medicine frequently causes more harm than good.

The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million. Dr. Richard Besser, of the CDC, in 1995, said the number of unnecessary antibiotics prescribed annually for viral infections was 20 million. Dr. Besser, in 2003, now refers to tens of millions of unnecessary antibiotics.

The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million. The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million. The total number of iatrogenic deaths shown in the following table is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. The 2001 heart disease annual death rate is 699,697; the annual cancer death rate, 553,251.

ANNUAL PHYSICAL AND ECONOMIC COST OF MEDICAL INTERVENTION

Condition

Deaths

Cost

Author

Adverse Drug Reactions 106,000 $12 billion Lazarou, Suh
Medical error 98,000 $2 billion IOM
Bedsores 115,000 $55 billion Xakellis, Barczak
Infection 88,000 $5 billion Weinstein, MMWR
Malnutrition 108,800 -------- Nurses Coalition
Outpatients 199,000 $77 billion Starfield, Weingart
Unnecessary Procedures 37,136 $122 billion HCUP
Surgery-Related 32,000 $9 billion AHRQ

TOTAL

783,936

$282 billion

 

We could have an even higher death rate by using Dr. Lucien Leape's 1997 medical and drug error rate of 3 million. (14) Multiplied by the fatality rate of 14% (that Leape used in 1994 (16)) we arrive at an annual death rate of 420,000 for drug errors and medical errors combined. If we put this number in place of Lazorou's 106,000 drug errors and the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) 98,000 medical errors, we could add another 216,000 deaths making a total of 999,936 deaths annually.

Condition

Deaths

Cost

Author

ADR / med error 420,000 $200 billion Leape 1997

TOTAL

999,936

 

 

ANNUAL UNNECESSARY MEDICAL EVENTS STATISTICS

Unnecessary Events

People Affected

Iatrogenic Events

Hospitalization 8.9 million 1.78 million
Procedures 7.5 million 1.3 million

TOTAL

16.4 million

3.08 million

The enumerating of unnecessary medical events is very important in our analysis. Any medical procedure that is invasive and not necessary must be considered as part of the larger iatrogenic picture. Unfortunately, cause and effect go unmonitored. The figures on unnecessary events represent people (“patients”) who are thrust into a dangerous healthcare system. They are helpless victims. Each one of these 16.4 million lives is being affected in a way that could have a fatal consequence. Simply entering a hospital could result in the following:

  1. In 16.4 million people, 2.1% chance of a serious adverse drug reaction, (1) (186,000)
  2. In 16.4 million people, 5-6% chance of acquiring a nosocomial infection, (9) (489,500)
  3. In16.4 million people, 4-36% chance of having an iatrogenic injury in hospital (medical error and adverse drug reactions). (16) (1.78 million)
  4. In 16.4 million people, 17% chance of a procedure error. (40) (1.3 million)

All the statistics above represent a one-year time span. Imagine the numbers over a ten-year period. Working with the most conservative figures from our statistics we project the following 10-year death rates.

TEN-YEAR DEATH RATES FOR MEDICAL INTERVENTION

Condition

10-year Deaths

Author

Adverse Drug Reactions 1.06 million Lazarou
Medical error 0.98 million IOM
Bedsores 1.15 million Xakellis, Barczak
Infection 0.88 million Weinstein, MMWR
Malnutrition 1.09 million Nurses Coalition
Outpatients 1.99 million Starfield, Weingart
Unnecessary Procedures 371,360 HCUP
Surgery-Related 320,000 AHRQ

TOTAL

7,841,360 (7.8 million)

Our projected statistic of 7.8 million iatrogenic deaths is more than all the casualties from wars that America has fought in its entire history.

Our projected figures for unnecessary medical events occurring over a 10-year period are also dramatic.

TEN-YEAR STATISTICS FOR UNNECESSARY INTERVENTION

Unnecessary Events

10-year Number

Iatrogenic Events

Hospitalization 89 million 17 million
Procedures 75 million 15 million

TOTAL

164 million

 

These projected figures show that a total of 164 million people, approximately 56% of the population of the United States, have been treated unnecessarily by the medical industry – in other words, about half a million people per day.

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