An interesting aspect of the health industry . Enough to make one ill innit
The American Iatrogenic Association is devoted to the study and reporting of medical errors that lead to disease and death.
In 2000, a presidential task force labelled medical errors a "national problem of epidemic proportions." Members estimated that the "cost associated with these errors in lost income, disability, and health care costs is as much as $29 billion annually." That same year the Institute of Medicine released an historic report, "To err is human: building a safer health system." The report's authors concluded that 44,000 to 98,000 people die each year as a result of errors during hospitalization. They noted that "even when using the lower estimate, deaths due to medical errors exceed the number attributable to the 8th-leading cause of death." The addition of non-hospital errors may drive the numbers of errors and deaths much higher. As the authors note, the hospital data "offer only a very modest estimate of the magnitude of the problem since hospital patients represent only a small proportion of the total population at risk, and direct hospital costs are only a fraction of total costs."
Medical errors are the not only way that consumers are harmed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2 million people annually acquire infections while hospitalized and 90,000 people die from those infections. More than 70 percent of hospital-acquired infections have become resistant to at least one of the drugs commonly used to treat them, largely due to the overprescribing of antibiotics by physicians. Staph, the leading cause of hospital infections, is now resistant to 95 percent of first-choice antibiotics and 30 percent of second-choice antibiotics. Poor staff hygiene is considered the leading source for infections acquired during hospitalizations. But efforts to get medical workers to improve safety through things as simple as better and more frequent hand washing have met with little success.
There is much disagreement as to what constitutes iatrogenic illness. For decades, peptic ulcers were said to be caused by an emotional disorder which prevented afflicted people from managing "stress." Physicians instructed many people with ulcers to change their lifestyles and, in some cases, to take anti-anxiety medications. In recent years researchers determined that most peptic ulcers were caused by a bacteria treatable with antibiotics. Were the adverse emotional and treatment consequences of misdiagnosing ulcers as a psychiatric illness iatrogenic? Similarly, for many years epilepsy was said by medical experts to be evidence of pathological criminality. Epileptics were imprisoned in "colonies," to isolate them from the general population. Were the obviously damaging effects of this "treatment" iatrogenic? Are the present large-scale drugging of children (mostly boys) diagnosed with "Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder," and the former "treatment" of homosexuals with electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatment), insulin coma, and lobotomy examples of iatrogenic disease? Most physicians would say they are not, yet the harm resulting from these erroneous diagnoses and severe "treatments" are no less damaging for the people who suffered them.
AiA casts a bright light on this debate, opening up medicine's murky side to public scrutiny and offering help to its victims. Our new web site will accomplish this in various and evolving ways, including:
the publishing of articles, essays, studies, book excerpts
making recommendations that will protect you from iatrogenic illness
publishing data on the risks of various medical procedures
investigating ways that an iatrogenically harmed person might be made well and, when appropriate, compensated for his or her disability and suffering
offering proposals for political and social changes that reduce iatrogenic risk and hold perpetrators accountable
an opportunity for iatrogenic victims to share their experiences with our readers
The site invites the participation of medical, legal, and political specialists, but it is designed for the general public and to be as free of obfuscatory medical jargon as possible.
If you agree with the objectives of the AIA you can help by making a donation.
Please note that donations to the American Iatrogenic Association are not tax-deductible.
Nicolas S. Martin, Executive Director
This site contains some files in the Acrobat (pdf) format. The free Reader necessary to read these files can be downloaded here.
"Insofar as the biologist or physician chooses to act as a scientist, he has an unqualified obligation to tell the truth; he cannot compromise that obligation without disqualifying himself as a scientist."
. . . "If we value personal freedom and dignity, we should, in confronting the moral dilemmas of biology, genetics, and medicine, insist that the expert's allegiance to the agents and values he serves be made explicit and that the power inherent in his specialized knowledge and skill not be accepted as justification for his exercising specific control over those lacking such knowledge and skill."
Thomas S. Szasz, "The Moral Physician," The Theology of Medicine