Iatrogenic Death – Sadly, More Common Than You Think!
The healthcare system is often featured on television shows. We often see doctors and nurses performing heroic measures that sustain life and deliver healthcare in a busy hospital setting. The patients are uniformly grateful. We are left thankful and reassured, tears of joy abound and the healthcare system is applauded. Except this picture is incomplete. While our hospitals save lives every day, they are also the third leading cause of avoidable death every year.
In Canada, medical errors and hospital-acquired infections claim between 30,000 and 60,000 lives annually. Thousands more are injured. Then there is the ocean of emotional harm that engulfs families, when a loved one is lost to hospital mishaps. Experts say this is often preventable. This is an Iatrogenic Death. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27143499/ Of course, the numbers vary from year to year and you will even see “Fact Checkers” debunking this, however, Pub Med is pretty reliable!! As always, do your own research to confirm!
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
These incidents are largely invisible to the public. We don’t see, in any television programs, the patients who die from falls or medication errors. Nor are they reported on our nightly news casts. We are not shown the agony of a patient suffering from a pressure ulcer which could have been prevented. Botched surgeries are also not reported. Hidden from our gaze is the suffering that hospital-acquired infections cause, killing between 8,000 and 12,000 Canadians every year.
Remember SARS and MRSA and most recently, CoVid? Patients would come into hospitals with other issues and then GET CoVid in the hospital. Some would develop serious issues and end up on ventilators and die. Preventative or proven treatments were never offered. They were listed as dying from CoVid. This is a WHOLE other Blog post!! Then there is pneumonia, UTI’s and surgical incision infections that have lead to flesh eating disease. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We often hear of surgical instruments being left behind in patients after their operations?
Why is this part of our healthcare system remaining largely out of sight and out of mind for most Canadians?
Hospitals tend to be less than forthcoming in admitting responsibility in the death of a loved one. Especially when they think legal action might ensue or bad publicity will result. When it comes to disclosing a mistake to a grieving family, many healthcare providers erect a wall of silence.
WHY Is This Happening?
Hospitals today are big business. They raise huge amounts from wealthy donors which has become standard operating practice. Healthcare providers have armies of public relations handlers, lawyers and industry associations. Their job it is to put the best spin on what hospitals are doing, especially with the mainstream media. Bad news doesn’t fit with the desired image. Canada’s hospital incident reporting is also less transparent and user-friendly than it is in the U.S. The USA has a number of rating systems publicly grade a hospital’s safety record patient satisfaction scores. Follow this link for U.S. hospitals and see for yourself. https://www.hospitalsafetygrade.org/ Not graded like the U.S., it still provides some interesting information (Canada) for your researching pleasure!! https://consumerhealthratings.com/healthcare_category/canada-hospital-ratings/
How Do Hospitals Get Away With This?
Hospitals and governments are partners. This is the greatest reason why there is little pressure to make hospital harm more visible and demand safer patient outcomes is that, If you criticize hospitals, you are taking on the government. And that’s no exaggeration. Governments are the main funders of our hospital system. And Canadian provinces contribute as much as 100 per cent of the cost of a doctor’s liability insurance coverage. This has helped to create the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA).
With a war chest in the billions of dollars, the CMPA throws its weight into defending doctors in court actions and even in complaints made before professional regulatory bodies like the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons. The CMPA is the 800-pound legal gorilla that ordinary folks can’t compete against. This, coupled with other woefully inadequate government mechanisms for redress when harm occurs, can quickly take all the oxygen out of a family’s quest for accountability.
Are We Looking At Hospitals Through Rose Colored Glasses?
Then there is the white coat complex. We like to think of our hospitals as gleaming temples of healing. It is natural to believe that the years of rigorous training doctors and nurses receive are the patient safety equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Deaths from medical mistakes occur one patient at a time. Yet, taken together, they are the equivalent of a large city bus full of passengers crashing and killing everyone on board every day of the year. If a fraction of these avoidable deaths was occurring as a result of safety breakdowns in our food supply or in the aviation industry, there would be outrage. Only in our healthcare system do we tolerate in silence such a lethal, and needlessly costly, epidemic of harm. Here is a link to check out, showing the numbers of deaths caused by our wonderful medical system. https://pharmadeathclock.com/
What Other Choice Do We Have?
Yes, there are many tears of joy when the hospital system works well. But the sea of tears from all those whom it has harmed, grows bigger every year. ANYONE with a serious medical condition needs to put fear aside. You need to get a second and third opinion before any major treatment. Doing some of your own research is a must. Unless you have been in a tragic accident and your loved ones have to make a split second decision, you have time to question and do your research. You have EVERY right to question a health care provider. If a doctor ever demeans you for questioning them, – GET ANOTHER DOCTOR!
In closing, and another reason why I stress questioning medical authorities; Maurice Gibb, famous member of the Bee Gees, died in a Florida hospital in 2003, after suffering a heart attack 4 days earlier prior to doctors preforming surgery for an intestinal blockage. He had a HEART ATTACK and they decide to operate on him for a blockage??? I am no doctor, but even THIS doesn’t make sense to me. He was already in a delicate medical condition. ALWAYS do your research!!!