from American Spectator


August 11, 2004, 06:01 PM
Another Perspective
Deadly Hospitals
By Ralph R. Reiland
Published 8/11/2004 12:05:16 AM

A 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine, "To Err Is Human," said that 98,000 Americans are killed per year by in-hospital medical errors. Now, according to a new study from Colorado-based Healthgrades Inc., a company that specializes in tracking patient outcomes and giving awards to hospitals that they assess as performing the best, the Institute of Medicine's estimate of preventable in-hospital deaths was wrong by half.

Researching data on nearly half of all hospital admissions from 2000 through 2002 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Healthgrades puts the number of annual deaths from medication errors and other in-hospital mistakes at 195,000. That's more than three Vietnams every year, more than triple the total number of Americans killed in Vietnam in over a decade of war.

The Healthgrades report, "Patient Safety in American Hospitals," includes the deaths of low-risk patients from infections as well as the mistakes made in attempts to rescue dying patients, things that were missing from the Institute of Medicine report. "If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual list of leading causes of death included medical errors," says Dr. Samantha Collier, vice president of medical affairs at Healthgrades, "it would show up as number six, ahead of deaths from diabetes, pneumonia, Alzheimer's disease and renal disease."

Worse, the 195,000 may be too low. "We're relying on data that hospitals submit," explains Collier, "and that might be a reason to under-document" the actual number of mistakes and resulting in-hospital deaths. "And we were only looking at in-hospital errors," says Collier, suggesting that medical errors made in outpatient settings would take the death toll to even higher levels. Imagine what we'd do as a nation if a U.S. passenger jet was crashing every day, or if a gang of jihadist shoe-bombers was successful in bringing down a fully-loaded U.S. passenger plane every day. The 195,000 figure, explains Collier, is "the equivalent of 390 jumbo jets full of people dying each year due to likely preventable, in-hospital medical errors, making this one of the leading killers in the U.S."

In total, the United States had 292,000 combat deaths in all of World War II. In America's hospitals, according to the Healthgrades report, we're losing that many people to medical errors every 18 months. In the face of this massive death toll, the Bush administration is seeking to put a $250,000 cap on recoveries for non-economic damages due to medical errors, place time restraints on a patient's right to sue, limit the level of punitive damages, and block lawsuits filed by patients seeking compensation from manufacturers for harm caused by medical devices or drugs.

On the point of preventing people from suing the manufacturers of defective medical products, the administration is arguing that patients lose the right to sue once a product has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. " The FDA is not infallible," countered the New York Times in a recent editorial. " It seems poor policy to assume that once the agency has judged a product safe enough to use, the manufacturer should be insulated forever from lawsuits that could force improvements. Simple justice suggests that victims harmed by a product should be able to seek compensation."

Referring to "a culture of lawsuits in America, a litigation culture," President Bush stated in a speech earlier this year to a group of health care professionals in Little Rock that the American health care system "looks like a giant lottery," and "somehow, the trial lawyers always hold the winning ticket." In fact, what looks more like a lottery is taking a chance on a hospital and hoping to come out alive.

"Lawsuits don't heal patients -- that's a fact," said Mr. Bush in his Little Rock address. "We can have balance in our society when it comes to a good legal system and a good medical system. It's not that way today. The pendulum has swung way, way too far." Looking at the numbers, one has to wonder if the pendulum has swung far enough. Most studies show that only a very small percentage of negligently injured patients ever file a lawsuit. And with the equivalent of a World War II in America's hospitals every 18 months, one also has to ask why Mr. Bush is saying that the way to reduce bad performance is through a reduction in the penalties for bad performance.

Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University and a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Posters Question:

What sayeth the AMA and some other doctors groups re Gun Control and those "death dealing guns" today?

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August 11, 2004, 06:27 PM
Yeah thats thorough unbiased reporting. I was going to fisk it but why bother, pearls before swine.

Here is a short counter-argument. If the cost of malpractice insurance becomes so high that doctors can no longer afford to practice medicine due to insurance costs, who benefits? If insurance companies can no longer offer the service, who benefits? Certainly not the public. Certainly not the ill and infirm. When I mean "doctors" I don't mean the few bad doctors, I mean doctors in general. Entire hospital staffs can't get insured. Keep in mind we have already reached that point in some states.

R.H. Lee
August 11, 2004, 06:45 PM
The "cost of insurance" argument is not persuasive enough to forgive shoddy medicine. These deaths would have not have occured if there were proper training and due diligence in hospitals. Too often so called "health care professionals" exhibit cavalier attitudes that would not be acceptable in any other field. I know, I work in a hospital, where you would think I would be surrounded with bright, inquisitive, quick thinking people. Au contraire. As an accountant, I have observed that this particular "industry" is the most bolloxed up mess I've ever encountered. Any why shouldn't it be? There are virtually no consequences for sloppiness, there is no real oversight, there are no real financial penalties for failure. Every day, $$ roll in, so if you screw up today, there's more money in tomorrow's mail.

I know doctors and nurses are in short supply. I understand there are frivolous lawsuits. The answer is not a "take it or leave it" attitude on the part of "health care professionals" whose primary concern should be the welfare of their patients.

August 11, 2004, 08:53 PM
Yeah thats thorough unbiased reporting. I was going to fisk it but why bother, pearls before swine.

So long as the rest of you (the "good" doctors) WILL NOT drive the merely incompetent or deadly physicians out of the practice of medicine (which YOU control from end to end), you will all have to pay for your collective FAILURE to cure the disease of malpractice. Lawyers have to do it because physicians won't. Collectively, it is your own fault. ALL physicians are at fault for not driving them out - from medical school professors who pass them to colleagues who cover for them to so-called regulators who can't bring themselves to take away a bad doctor's profession.

August 11, 2004, 09:51 PM
If that's the case, F4GIB, then why doesn't the bar drive their bad ones out?

And don't give me the crap that they do...Bar discipline is a joke, and we both know it. Oooh, after your third or fourth violatoin, you might get a smack on the hand, right?

For example, I know a guy who's been locked up for DUI. He's still practicing law, though. Matter of fact, he defends DUI clients. What sanctions did he get? None, that I've heard.....No suspensions for the bar, no expulsion, jsut "go forth and sin no more" stuff. Kinda like the type of punishment that, if cops get it, you get incensed over it.

Oh, and it's not just the criminal offenses I'm talking about, either. The moron who filed the lawuit for the fat guy should be censured, too. You know, the suit that blamed Mcdonalds, et al, for a fat guy being fat....

Or, the old lady who got hot coffee spilled on her. Or, the lawyer who represented the burglar htat got shot after breaking in a house. Upon his injury, the burglar sued, saying that if he'd known the homeowner had a gun, he wouldn't have broken in. Yep, he won that suit. How about that lawyer? SHouldn't his peers get rid of him?

Personally, I blame lawyers a LOT more, than I blame the doctors. Sure, mistakes happen, and I fully expect that the doctors take responsibility for them. BUt, come one...does anyone here actually think their life is worth $25 million dollars? Especially when their annual income is $30K? Get real.

August 11, 2004, 09:58 PM
I'm a physician and I would like to point out the biggest reason the "bad physicians" don't get weeded out. There is a big fat lawyer sitting beside them looking to sue your a-- off if you do not have a very solid case. They do have due process. I know of very few physicians who are willing to get slapped with a mulit-million dollar law-suit. I've watched a few of these cases. Their lawyer will throw the book at you--------yell racism,sexism, say you are just trying to get rid of the competition etc. You are mistaken the LAWYERS are on both sides of this game.:fire:

August 11, 2004, 10:10 PM
One might make the point that BOTH the legal and medical fields are a mess.

August 11, 2004, 11:12 PM

Notwithstanding the piece I posted, one realizes that there are most certainly good doctors and good hospitals. I speak from personal experience, for both I and my wife have benefited from the services of each.

This aside, there is the blatant hog wash produced by the AMA, and some particular physicians groups, Pediatric doctors to name one, that are arrant nonsense.

Re such as these, it has always been my position that such people can lecture me on the "evils of arms" about 5 minutes AFTER I walk into their waiting rooms, and proceede to lecture their patients, or them on the practice of medicine.

By the bye, if memory serves, a few years back Harvard Medical School did some research into the matter, and the number that they came up with was quite close to 100,000 deaths/year from what they breathlessly described as "medical misadventure".

There was a lady doctor at, or connected with the medical school who was one of those hyphenated, virulent anti-gunners, Prothro-Smyth as I recall, who while she had a great deal to say about firearms, had nothing much to say that would have rebutted the results of the Harvard studies.

Lawyers are another matter, and I would rather not go far afield at the moment, other than to ask the following question, regarding the frivilous suits brought by lawyers and municipalities against various segments of the firearms industry. Why the hell hasn't the firearms industry filed counter suits against all parties concerned.

This business is almost as blatant as governments, given their VESTED FINANCIAL INTERESTS, in the sale and distribution of cigaretts (just look at the levels of taxation involved with this produt) filing suits against cigarette makers. Both lawyers and political types are involved in those suits also.

August 12, 2004, 08:51 AM
"If the cost of malpractice insurance becomes so high that doctors can no longer afford to practice medicine due to insurance costs, who benefits? If insurance companies can no longer offer the service, who benefits?"

There's a one-word answer to this: LAWYERS.

Added note: Numbers from about 100,000 to 200,000 accidental medical deaths per year have appeared in this thread. How does this compare with gun deaths, accidental or otherwise, per year?


August 12, 2004, 11:05 AM
ravinraven offered the following:

"Added note: Numbers from about 100,000 to 200,000 accidental medical deaths per year have appeared in this thread. How does this compare with gun deaths, accidental or otherwise, per year?"

It doesn't "compare" in any way at all, but then the anti's are not interested in rational analysis or thought. Their stock and trade remains, as it always was, emotional hype, half truths and outright lies.

Art Eatman
August 12, 2004, 03:46 PM
Not too many years back, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that as many as 300,000 deaths per year were resulting from "goofs" by medical professionals. Me? I dunno for sure...

As to accidental deaths per year where firearms are involved, it runs pretty steadily in the 1,000 to 1,100 range. Of these, some 100 to 130 are children 14 years of age or younger.


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