Are Many Medical Mistakes Still Fatal Ones?

One of the more popular articles on my site over the past year has been the multi-part Modern Health Care System is the Leading Cause of Death, a sequel to the landmark Institutes of Medicine report conducted five years ago. No big surprise those concerns continue to capture the attention of patients and health care workers alike, especially considering more recent reports about medical blunders being the norm rather than the exception.

But are these errors -- that often result in needless death -- at all decreasing? According to a new study's in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, not much, despite what some claim to be an unprecedented focus on patient safety.

The study's co-author who teaches at the Harvard School of Public Health believes the medical community realizes what needs to be done to fix the problem but many barriers -- much of which are part-and-parcel of a conventional health care paradigm gone crazy -- remain.

Numbers are cited in the piece to reassure patients and health care professionals that indeed progress is being made, like, for example, an 81 percent decrease in errors by using computerized prescriptions. That statistic certainly sounds encouraging, until you recall a mid-January study I posted that attributed a 25 percent spike in prescription-related deaths to errors made in the first few days of every month.

One quote by the Harvard study's co-author says a lot: We really need to rethink how we pay for health care. What we do now is pay for services, but what we should do is pay for care and outcomes.

Not as long as conventional medicine tries to cure patients with toxic pills, unnecessary procedures and surgeries that do more harm than good, rather than treat the true cause of their maladies.

Journal of the American Medical Association, May 18, 2005, Vol. 293, No. 19: 2384-2390

USA Today May 18, 2005

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