Monday, July 16, 2007

Guns Don't Kill People - Doctors Kill People!

According to a comment at Club Troppo, doctors are a bigger threat to community safety than guns. And this, being the internet, the commenter, Phil, had the links to prove it.

First there was this report in The National Rupert Daily, "Hospital Bungles are Killing Scores":

AUSTRALIA'S first national report into serious mistakes in public hospitals has found at least 130 avoidable instances in which patients died or were put at serious risk.

Operations or investigations on the wrong patient, or the wrong body part, accounted for the biggest share of the mistakes, at 41 per cent of the 130 "sentinel events" recorded in 2004-05.


Stephen Bolsin, associate professor of patient safety at Victoria's Geelong Hospital, said there was no evidence hospital safety had improved since a landmark 1995 report showed that up to 8per cent of hospital patients would be the victim of a preventable mistake - and 10 per cent of these would cause permanent disability or death.

"Safety breaches in Australian healthcare are killing more people than breast cancer or road accidents," Associate Professor Bolsin said.

"But it doesn't get anything like the attention ... there's no evidence things have changed over the past 10 years."
I don't know the death rate from breast cancer, but it seems to me that Professor Bolkin is indulging in hyperbole when he says that the Australian healthcare system kills more people than road accidents. A quick check of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's Road Deaths Australia: 2006 Statistical Summary reveals this fact:

In 2006, there were 1,601 persons killed in 1,456 road crashes. Comparing the number killed with the previous year, this was a 1.6% decrease (1,627 persons killed in 1,472 crashes).
So the comparative scores are: road traffic deaths - 1,601, patients killed or put at serious risk by the health system - 130. If Associate Professor Bolsin's claim is correct we still have around 1,500 iatrogenic deaths to account for.

Phil's other link is to this page at the Sporting Shooters' Association of Australia web-site, titled "Doctors: A Health Issue". Here you'll find plenty of reports and links on the health risks of health care.

There are plenty of adjectives to describe this sort of reporting. "Honest" and "truthful" aren't among them.

(Cross posted at Larvatus Prodeo)

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