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Dr. Rath Health Foundation

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New study suggests medication errors and adverse drug events are commonplace in surgical operations 

Image: By Ion Chibzii [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A new study measuring the incidence of medication errors and adverse drug events during the perioperative period – immediately before, during or right after a surgical procedure – suggests that mistakes or adverse events occur in around 50 percent of operations and in 5 percent of drug administrations. Examining 277 randomly selected operations conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States, the study, which will appear in Anesthesiology, the official medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, found that a third of the errors uncovered resulted in adverse drug events or harm to patients. 

Founded in 1811, Massachusetts General Hospital is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. Observing 225 anesthesia providers – anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, and resident physicians – during operations conducted at the hospital between November 2013 and June 2014, the researchers determined that 124 of the 277 operations examined included at least one medication error or adverse drug event. One-third of the medication errors led to an adverse drug event, and the remainder were judged to have the potential to cause an adverse event. Moreover, 20 percent of the adverse drug events recorded were not associated with a medication error, thus suggesting they may have been a direct result of drug toxicity.  

From the point-of-view of patients, a particularly worryingly aspect of this study is that previous research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of the world’s leading medical journals, clearly supports its findings. So dangerous is the pharmaceutical approach to medicine that orthodox doctors, hospitals and their treatments have been shown in JAMA to be the third leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by deaths from heart disease and cancer. Similarly, a JAMA study published in 1998 estimated that in 1994 around 2,216,000 hospitalised patients in the United States had suffered a serious adverse drug reaction (ADR) and that 106,000 had suffered a fatal ADR. This suggests that prescription drugs were between the fourth and sixth leading cause of death in the USA in that year.

While part of the purpose of the Massachusetts General Hospital study was to formulate solutions to prevent adverse drug events from occurring, the fact is that this is essentially impossible to achieve. Even when supposedly prescribed and used “correctly”, there is no such thing as a safe drug. As synthetic chemical molecules that don’t exist in nature, drugs are treated by the body as foreign invaders that have to be detoxified and eliminated. When the body’s protective systems fail in this critical task, severe and deadly side-effects are the inevitable result.

Ultimately, for real health and healing to occur it is necessary to address the root cause of disease: micronutrient deficiency. In the absence of this, any medical system that depends upon drugs, surgery, radiation and other orthodox approaches as its primary treatment options is only addressing the symptoms of disease. Moving beyond the current outdated medical paradigm thus necessitates a wholesale redesign of our healthcare systems. This includes properly educating our doctors, who, mostly through no fault of their own, have been reduced to playing the role of a sales force for the pharmaceutical ‘business with disease’. The sooner this urgently-needed transformation takes place, the sooner injuries and deaths resulting from synthetic chemical drugs can be brought to an end.

29 October, 2015

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