If you go and have a look at the leading causes of death in the US on the NIH website, you’ll find a list of causes you’ll recognize. Heart disease, strokes, cancer, even suicide.
But there is one cause of death that is conspicuously missing: iatrogenic deaths. Iatrogenic deaths are those deaths induced by medical treatment. Where would you place them on the list? Fiftieth? Wrong! Twentieth on the list? Wrong again. Surely not as high as tenth? Wrong! Still too low.
Shockingly, medical practice is the third leading cause of death, just behind heart disease and cancer. It kills about 400,000 Americans each year. So what are the facts?
Doctors Are The Major Culprit
There’s no sugar-coating this one. Doctors are the main culprit when it comes to medical malpractice. It turns out that they’re responsible for over four fifths of medical malpractice in hospitals.
It’s a shocking statistic, given how respected and admired doctors are in wider society. But the facts speak for themselves.
Some doctors aren’t happy with the level of malpractice in their hospitals. And innovative doctors are looking for methods that will reduce doctor-induced deaths.
But the quality of physicians appears to be falling. Only 3 in 10 people would recommend their doctors to a friend or family member.
The Costs Of Medical Errors Are Soaring
The costs of medical negligence are soaring all over the world. In the US, the cost of all medical errors combined is an estimated $260 billion. Half of that figure is wasted on ineffective treatment. Another $75 billion is obtained fraudulently. And $55 billion is was lost in missed opportunities to prevent medical problems.
It’s a sobering statistic. And the additional costs of personal injury solicitors mean that this figure is likely to be even higher.
In the Uk, the situation is hardly any better. The Guardian reported back in 2014 that the NHS was wasting in the region of £2.5 billion a year. Poor healthcare and medical errors were at the root of the problem.
Few Practitioners Pay Out For Their Negligence
Despite the statistics, which suggest that medical negligence is widespread, few doctors pay out. One New England Journal of Medicine study found that one in twelve doctors get sued for negligence. And by itself, that sounds like a lot.
It isn’t a lot, however, when you consider that only a fifth of those cases is successful.
Most of the time medical practitioners do not suffer personally for their negligence. Their insurance companies pay out, and they continue practicing. This leads to standards that erode over time and families that lose loved ones.
Malpractice Leads To Irreversible Damage
The saddest aspect about medical negligence is how profoundly it affects those it touches. Something like 90 percent of all medical negligence claimants has irreversible damage. Often medical cases are brought by family members on behalf of the deceased. There aren’t enough pages in tabloid newspapers to adequately convey the scale of the tragedy unfolding in our hospitals.
But tragedies like this won’t be resolved unless doctors are held accountable. And that means telling the truth about negligence.