Volume11, Issue 28 | April 4, 2014  
Are hospitals really harming 25%
of their patients?
Years ago, a famous medical doctor exposed a sordid truth. The only times in modern history that the death rate fell is when doctors go out on strike. Robert Mendelssohn, MD was, at one time, the head of the Illinois licensing board. He authored Confessions of a Medical Heretic.

In his book, he gave warnings about our medical system that, if heeded, could save billions of needless expenditures in our disease maintenance system. More importantly, they could save thousands of lives.

Years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report that medical treatment itself is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. What's amazing is that our hospital safety has not improved in all these years. Most recently, the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that hospital safety is NOT improving.

In the study the journal published, the researchers followed 2,300 patient admissions from 10 North Carolina hospitals. In 588 cases, they confirmed that medical procedures or medications harmed patients or caused medical injuries. That means the hospital harmed over 25% of these patients. Of these, 41.7% were temporary harms requiring intervention. An additional 17 harms (2.9%) were permanent. Fifty (8.5%) were life-threatening. And 14 (2.4%) directly caused or contributed to a patient's death. The authors reported that 63% of the incidents could have been avoided.

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The most common incidents involved procedural error (186 cases), medication-related problems (162 cases), and hospital-acquired nosocomial infections (87 cases). Other causes included flawed diagnostic evaluations and even patients falling.

If I could wave a magic wand, I'd simply eliminate western-style disease-maintenance medicine, except for acute life-saving interventions. (For the latter, our form of medicine is simply outstanding.) So what would we get for my magic wand? We'd save hundreds of billions of dollars, many thousands of lives, and improve the health of most people who are locked onto petrochemical drugs. We might even put some undertakers out of business. (In Israel, starving undertakers pleaded with the government to end a doctors' strike).

I strongly suggest that you avoid the hospital - unless you are faced with an imminent life-threatening condition. The chances you take in the hospital might outweigh whatever benefit the doctor thinks you might get from chemical treatment.


NEJM, November 25 2010.

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