Medical error- third leading cause of death in the US?

Let’s start this review on a happy note. We’re all going to die, yep no getting around it. However would you really expect that your untimely demise is going to come from seeing your doctor? Isn’t seeing our doctor something that is supposed to extend our life? Unless your appointment is with Dr. Kevorkian you should be leaving your Doctor feeling better than when you showed up. Right? Right!

However this paper showed that after heart disease and cancer, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. This has gone on relatively unnoticed because all deaths have to have a code listed by the coroner or doctor who records the cause of death and there is no code for medical error. This means all medical errors get chalked up to some other cause.

An example used in this paper was from a woman who was recovering after a successful transplant operation. She began developing some symptoms that weren’t very specific to any cause so they started doing numerous tests on her, some deemed unnecessary. One of these tests involved inserting a needle into the space around her heart to test the fluid. She was released again after these tests but returned in a few days with internal bleeding and was having a heart attack. It was found that during the procedure involving the needle near her heart the doctor nicked her liver which caused an aneurism that then burst and caused her death. On the death certificate it was listed simply as cardiovascular.

In this paper they reviewed several other research papers that looked at hospital records to get a number on how many deaths could be attributed to medical error. They then took that percentage and multiplied it by the number of hospitals in the country to get an average of how often this could be happening across the United States. One limitation is these papers only looked an inpatient numbers so people seen at a medical facility then released would not show up in the reports. This means the number of deaths caused by medical error could be even higher.

I joked that I was starting this paper on a happy note but I really do want to end it on one. I write these articles and review these papers to give you things you can do today to be healthier and live the life you are designed to. The point of the authors writing this paper was to highlight the need to have a more accurate system to record what caused a person’s death so hospitals can do a better job of preventing errors.

My point in reviewing this paper is not to bash the medical system. If you are injured there is no better place to be to get the emergency medical care you need. However if you are just trying to lead a healthier life the best way to go about that is by doing some simple things that can keep you out of the doctor’s office. Eating right, getting enough exercise, avoiding or dealing with stress effectively. And don’t think I’m going to leave out getting adjusted by a chiropractor. As a chiropractor I always start with making sure my spine is functioning properly, allowing the free flow of energy through my nervous system to all of the organs and tissues of my body. These are simple things we can all do on our own to get healthier. It should come as no surprise that the top two killers in the US, heart disease and cancer, are very preventable and are caused by our environments and own actions. Making some changes to your lifestyle can help you avoid the top two diseases that cause the most deaths in the United States. Then if you avoid those you’ll stay out of the doctor’s office more and avoid the newly discovered third! Make these changes to be healthier and don’t rely on finding a pill or potion that will do it for you.

It’s as simple as that.

By: Dr. Scott Szela

ref: BMJ 2016, 353:i2 139

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *