Fouten van artsen derde doodsoorzaak in de VS

“Wie de serie ER bekijkt op TV krijgt de indruk dat al deze rondrazende artsen erg bezorgd zijn over het feit of een van hun patienten nog leeft of dood is. Dat is niet mijn ervaring met de ziekenhuizen die ik in het echt gezien heb.”

Aldus begint een column over de feitelijke praktijk van het hedendaagse gezondheidswezen bij Fox News. Het artikel somt wat statistieken op over de harde praktijk: Elk jaar sterven in de VS tussen de 100.000 en 205.000 mensen aan medisch falen. 106.000 van de 205.000 mensen sterven aan de gevolgen van correct voorgeschreven medicijnen. 7.000 patiënten sterven aan fout voorgeschreven medicijnen, 2,1 miljoen mensen worden ernstig geschaad door fout voorschrijfgedrag van de artsen.

In real life, one goes to a hospital if he or she is curious to have a near death experience. Medical treatment is the third leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer, according to a 2000 Journal of the American Medical Association article by Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Starfield places medically-related deaths at 225,000 a year, while a more conservative estimate by a 1999 Institute of Medicine report placed the number of deaths by medical error at 100,000 a year.

The subsets of statistics behind these numbers are even more alarming. Starfield’s JAMA report claimed that 106,000 deaths are caused by correctly prescribed medications, while preion error accounts for 7,000 annual deaths. (Meanwhile, a 1998 JAMA study claims preion error seriously injures 2.1 million patients every year.)

Last week, ABC’s “Primetime Thursday” attributed 100,000 annual deaths to hospital infections alone–at least 50,000 of them preventable through the practice of basic hygiene by hospitals. The report mentioned that ABC sportscaster died two years ago from a hospital infection he got after routine hip replacement surgery because the medical staff at New York’s prestigious Lenox Hill Hospital couldn’t be bothered to wash their hands between patients.

My former college professor, who has a heart condition, caught on early. Whenever hospital staff  enter his room, he asks, “What is my name? And what am I here for?” Otherwise, he fears, healthy organs may get removed and the wrong appendages amputated. But even this kind of diligence would not have helped a former colleague of mine, a 115-pound woman who went into the hospital for a colonoscopy and wound up in the intensive care unit after being injected with enough local anesthetic for a 220 pound man.

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