* The third highest cause of deaths in the US is what is termed "iatrogenic", which means "induced in a patient by a physician's activity, manner, or therapy." This accounts for an estimated 225,000 deaths per annum which is about 10% of total deaths from all causes including old age. Of these, 12,000 deaths result from unnecessary surgery. The highest cause of deaths in the US is heart disease (725,000) and the 2nd highest is cancer (549,000). Both of these were almost unheard of at the beginning of the twentieth century.
* 180,000 deaths a year occur due to adverse reactions to prescription medications. By comparison, general accidents in life account for 98,000 per annum. This includes 42,000 from car accidents, 120 from airline crashes**, 90 from being struck by lightning** and 5 from Anthrax (in 2001). 15,500 die from murders and 20,000 from flu or its complications.
**averaged over 2-3 decades
Causes of Death Further Breakdown
2. Poor diet and physical inactivity
3. Alcohol consumption
4. Infectious agents (e.g., influenza and pneumonia)
5. Toxic agents (e.g., pollutants and asbestos)
6. Motor vehicle accidents
8. Sexual behavior
9. Illicit use of drugs
* Despite all the media hype about how good the US medical system is and how we're winning the war against cancer, these statistics tell a very different story:
According to the 2001 World Health Organization report, "World Health Report – Health Systems: Improving Performance", the U.S. ranks 37th out of 191 countries. A commentary published in the July 26, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association notes that in a comparison of the top 13 industrial countries based on 16 health indicators, the U.S. ranked on average 12th. The countries included in the study were, in order from the top-ranked (best health care) to the lowest-ranked, as follows: Japan, Sweden, Canada, France, Australia, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, the U.S., and Germany. Of the 13 countries compared, only Germany ranked lower overall than the U.S. In fact, the U.S. ranked dead last for three indicators. These were low-birth-weight percentages, neonatal mortality and infant mortality overall, and years of potential life lost. These rankings do not paint a picture of a country that has the world's best health care.
Is it true that we're winning the war against cancer like we're asked to believe, after the massive research funding backed by the government?
From the U.S. government's own raw statistical abstracts we find the real story:
Mortality from Cancer in the U.S.
year --- deaths/ 100,000
1992 is the last year for which data is currently available from Vital Statistics. There is nothing to indicate that there should be any downturn between 1992 and the present. In fact, independent analysis by the CA Journal for Cancer Clinicians, Jan 97, put the 1993 death rate at 220 per 100,000. A 40% increase in cancer deaths per capita in the last 4 decades is hardly "winning the war against cancer."
* An estimated 2 million people a year (11% of those admitted) catch infections in hospitals that they didn't have when they were admitted and approximately 90,000 of them die from these infections. An approximate list in order of likelihood is: urinary tract infections (34%), surgical site infections (17%), respiratory infections especially pneumonia (13%), blood infections/bacteremia (14%), skin (especially burns), gastrointestinal tract infections, and central nervous system infections.
* About 2,216,000 annual hospitalizations result in adverse drug reactions and these account for 106,000 deaths annually.
* As Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn demonstrates in his book "Confessions of a Medical Heretic", when hospitals or doctors go on strike, the death rate goes down and when they go back to work, the death rates rise again.
* It’s estimated, that 80% of the population will end up with a tumor, cancer, disease or some type of physical problems or pain. This means approximately 4 out of 5 people are on the highway to some type of physical tragedy.
* Side effects of commonly used over the counter pain relievers include gastric ulcers, bleeding stomachs, hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths last year.
* Between 1950 and 1964 more people died in US state and county psychiatric hospitals than Americans killed in battle for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War combined. And the total number of psychiatric inpatient deaths from 1950 to 1990 exceeded the number of battle deaths in the above wars by at least 70 percent!
* "...St. John's Wort fully cured 24 percent of the depressed people who received it, and Zoloft cured 25 percent -
but the placebo fully cured 32 percent...." Shankar Vedantam, The Washington Post, Wednesday, May 8, 2002
* A 1992 study in Journal of the American Medical Association of 223 patients concluded that no treatment at all for prostate cancer actually was better than any standard chemotherapy, radiation or surgical procedure. (Johansson)
* The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) commissioned a phone survey in 1997 to review patient opinions about medical mistakes. The findings showed that 42% of people believed they had personally experienced a medical mistake. In these cases, the error affected them personally (33%), a relative (48%), or a friend (19%).
The location where the medical error was experienced was:
doctor's office (22%),
operating room (7%),
emergency room (5%),
medical laboratory (1%),
nursing home (1%), and
Vital Statistics of the United States vol.II 1967-1992
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (National Center for Health Statistics), Deaths: Final Data for 1997.
National Vital Statistics Reports: Deaths: Leading Causes for 1999. Volume 49, Number 11, October 12, 2001
2001 World Health Organization "World Health Report
Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000. JAMA. 2004 Mar 10;291(10):1238-45.)
Journal of the American Medical Association, July 26, 2000
Institute of Medicine (IOM), "To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System", 2000
Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, Is US Health Really the Best in the World?, JAMA, Volume 284, No. 4, July 26, 2000
Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. JAMA 1998 Apr 15;279(15):1200-5
JAMA / volume:279 (page: 1216) Drugs and Adverse Drug Reactions: How Worried Should We Be? David W. Bates, MD, MSc April 15, 1998
EILEEN G. HOLLAND, PHARM.D., and FRANK V. DEGRUY, M.D. Drug-Induced Disorders, Volume 15, No. 7, November 1, 1997
Phillips DP, Christenfeld N, Glynn LM. Lancet 1998 Feb 28;351(9103):643-4 Increase in US medication-error deaths between 1983 and 1993
National Academies, "Preventing Death and Injury From Medical Errors Requires Dramatic, System-Wide Changes" November 29, 1999, (press release)
Richard J. Bonnie, Carolyn E. Fulco, Catharyn T. Liverman, Editors; Committee on Injury Prevention and Control, Institute of Medicine, Reducing the Burden of Injury: Advancing Prevention and Treatment
Schuster M, McGlynn E, Brook R. How good is the quality of health care in the United States? Milbank Q. 1998;76:517-563.
National Patient Safety Foundation at the AMA: Public Opinion of Patient Safety Issues, Louis Harris & Associates, September 1997
ABC News Reports 2003