Monthly Archives: February 2015

Medical care is 3rd leading cause of death in U.S.


“The Word of God will save your life. My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh”. (Prov 4:20-22)

The popular perception that the U.S. has the highest quality of medical care in the world has been proven entirely false by several public heath studies and reports over the past few years.

The prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association published a study by Dr. Barbara Starfield, a medical doctor with a Master’s degree in Public Health, in 2000 which revealed the extremely poor performance of the United States health care system when compared to other industrialized countries (Japan, Sweden, Canada, France, Australia, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium and Germany).

In fact, the U.S. is ranked last or near last in several significant health care indicators:

13th (last) for low-birth-weight percentages
13th for neonatal mortality and infant mortality overall
11th for postneonatal mortality
13th for years of potential life lost (excluding external causes)
12th for life expectancy at 1 year for males, 11th for females
12th for life expectancy at 15 years for males, 10th for females

The most shocking revelation of her report is that iatrogentic damage (defined as a state of ill health or adverse effect resulting from medical treatment) is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.

Let me pause while you take that in.

This means that doctors and hospitals are responsible for more deaths each year than cerebrovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, accidents, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonia.

The combined effect of errors and adverse effects that occur because of iatrogenic damage includes:

12,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery
7,000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals
20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals
80,000 deaths/year from nosocomial infections in hospitals
106,000 deaths a year from nonerror, adverse effects of medications

This amounts to a total of 225,000 deaths per year from iatrogenic causes. However, Starfield notes three important caveats in her study:

Most of the data are derived from studies in hospitalized patients
The estimates are for deaths only and do not include adverse effects associated with disability or discomfort
The estimates of death due to error are lower than those in the Institute of Medicine Report (a previous report by the Institute of Medicine on the number of iatrogenic deaths in the U.S.)

If these caveats are considered, the deaths due to iatrogenic causes would range from 230,000 to 284,000.

Starfield and her colleagues performed an analysis which took the caveats above into consideration and included adverse effects other than death. Their analysis concluded that between 4% and 18% of consecutive patients experience adverse effects in outpatient settings, with:

116 million extra physician visits
77 million extra prescriptions
17 million emergency department visits
8 million hospitalizations
3 million long-term admissions
199,000 additional deaths
$77 billion in extra costs (equivalent to the aggregate cost of care of patients with diabetes

I want to make it clear that I am not condemning physicians in general. In fact, most of the doctors I’ve come into contact with in the course of my life have been competent and genuinely concerned about my welfare. In many ways physicians are just as victimized by the deficiencies of our health-care system as patients and consumers are. With increased patient loads and mandated time limits for patient visits set by HMOs, most doctors are doing the best they can to survive our broken and corrupt health-care system.

The Institute of Medicine’s report (“To Err is Human”) which Starfied and her colleagues analyzed isn’t the only study to expose the failures of the U.S. health-care system. The World Health Organization issued a report in 2000, using different indicators than the IOM report, that ranked the U.S. as 15th among 25 industrialized countries.

As Starfied points out, the “real explanation for relatively poor health in the United States is undoubtedly complex and multifactorial.” Two significant causes of our poor standing is over-reliance on technology and a poorly developed primary care infrastructure. The United States is second only to Japan in the availability of technological procedures such as MRIs and CAT scans. However, this has not translated into a higher standard of care, and in fact may be linked to the “cascade effect” where diagnostic procedures lead to more treatment (which as we have seen can lead to more deaths).

Of the 7 countries in the top of the average health ranking, 5 have strong primary care infrastructures. Evidence indicates that the major benefit of health-care access accrues only when it facilitates receipt of primary care. (Starfield, 1998)

One might think that these sobering analyses of the U.S. health-care system would have lead to a public discussion and debate over how to address the shortcomings. Alas, both medical authorities and the general public alike are mostly unaware of this data, and we are no closer to a safe, accessible and effective health-care system today than we were eight years ago when these reports were published.

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How Many Die From Medical Mistakes in U.S. Hospitals?


“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’. (1 Corinthians 3:19)

It seems that every time researchers estimate how often a medical mistake contributes to a hospital patient’s death, the numbers come out worse.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published the famous “To Err Is Human” report, which dropped a bombshell on the medical community by reporting that up to 98,000 people a year die because of mistakes in hospitals. The number was initially disputed, but is now widely accepted by doctors and hospital officials — and quoted ubiquitously in the media.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services said that bad hospital care contributed to the deaths of 180,000 patients in Medicare alone in a given year.

Now comes a study in the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety that says the numbers may be much higher — between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death, the study says.

That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.

The new estimates were developed by John T. James, a toxicologist at NASA’s space center in Houston who runs an advocacy organization called Patient Safety America. James has also written a book about the death of his 19-year-old son after what James maintains was negligent hospital care.

Asked about the higher estimates, a spokesman for the American Hospital Association said the group has more confidence in the IOM’s estimate of 98,000 deaths. ProPublica asked three prominent patient safety researchers to review James’ study, however, and all said his methods and findings were credible.

What’s the right number? Nobody knows for sure. There’s never been an actual count of how many patients experience preventable harm. So we’re left with approximations, which are imperfect in part because of inaccuracies in medical records and the reluctance of some providers to report mistakes.

Patient safety experts say measuring the problem is nonetheless important because estimates bring awareness and research dollars to a major public health problem that persists despite decades of improvement efforts.

“We need to get a sense of the magnitude of this,” James said in an interview.

James based his estimates on the findings of four recent studies that identified preventable harm suffered by patients – known as “adverse events” in the medical vernacular – using use a screening method called the Global Trigger Tool, which guides reviewers through medical records, searching for signs of infection, injury or error. Medical records flagged during the initial screening are reviewed by a doctor, who determines the extent of the harm.

In the four studies, which examined records of more than 4,200 patients hospitalized between 2002 and 2008, researchers found serious adverse events in as many as 21 percent of cases reviewed and rates of lethal adverse events as high as 1.4 percent of cases.

By combining the findings and extrapolating across 34 million hospitalizations in 2007, James concluded that preventable errors contribute to the deaths of 210,000 hospital patients annually.

That is the baseline. The actual number more than doubles, James reasoned, because the trigger tool doesn’t catch errors in which treatment should have been provided but wasn’t, because it’s known that medical records are missing some evidence of harm, and because diagnostic errors aren’t captured.

An estimate of 440,000 deaths from care in hospitals “is roughly one-sixth of all deaths that occur in the United States each year,” James wrote in his study. He also cited other research that’s shown hospital reporting systems and peer-review capture only a fraction of patient harm or negligent care.

“Perhaps it is time for a national patient bill of rights for hospitalized patients,” James wrote. “All evidence points to the need for much more patient involvement in identifying harmful events and participating in rigorous follow-up investigations to identify root causes.”

Dr. Lucian Leape, a Harvard pediatrician who is referred to the “father of patient safety,” was on the committee that wrote the “To Err Is Human” report. He told ProPublica that he has confidence in the four studies and the estimate by James.

Members of the Institute of Medicine committee knew at the time that their estimate of medical errors was low, he said. “It was based on a rather crude method compared to what we do now,” Leape said. Plus, medicine has become much more complex in recent decades, which leads to more mistakes, he said.

Dr. David Classen, one of the leading developers of the Global Trigger Tool, said the James study is a sound use of the tool and a “great contribution.” He said it’s important to update the numbers from the “To Err Is Human” report because in addition to the obvious suffering, preventable harm leads to enormous financial costs.

Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at The Johns Hopkins Hospital whose book “Unaccountable” calls for greater transparency in health care, said the James estimate shows that eliminating medical errors must become a national priority. He said it’s also important to increase the awareness of the potential of unintended consequences when doctors perform procedure and tests. The risk of harm needs to be factored into conversations with patients, he said.

Leape, Classen and Makary all said it’s time to stop citing the 98,000 number.

Still, hospital association spokesman Akin Demehin said the group is sticking with the Institute of Medicine’s estimate. Demehin said the IOM figure is based on a larger sampling of medical charts and that there’s no consensus the Global Trigger Tool can be used to make a nationwide estimate. He said the tool is better suited for use in individual hospitals.

The AHA is not attempting to come up with its own estimate, Demehin said.

Dr. David Mayer, the vice president of quality and safety at Maryland-based MedStar Health, said people can make arguments about how many patient deaths are hastened by poor hospital care, but that’s not really the point. All the estimates, even on the low end, expose a crisis, he said.

“Way too many people are being harmed by unintentional medical error,” Mayer said, “and it needs to be corrected.”

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Irrefutable Stats on Iatrogenic Deaths – thos who died because of their doctors’ prescriptions


Drug overdose deaths have been rising in the last two decades and have become the leading cause of accidental death in the US.
– Every day, in the US, 120 people die as a result of drug overdose.
– Another 6748 are treated in the ER for misuse of abuse of Rx drugs.
– Almost 5 people per hour died of Rx overdose in the US in 2011. (taken from UN report)
– Nearly 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are cause by Rx drugs.
– Accidental Rx drug deaths are up 400% in 20 years.
– In 2012, Rx drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death.
– Among people from the age of 25 to 64 years old, Rx drug overdose caused more deaths than     motor vehicle crashes.
– In 2013, 35,663 (81.7%) of the 43,982 drug overdose deaths in the US were Unintentional.
– The same year (above), 5,432 (12.4%) of deaths were of suicidal intent, and 2801 (0.06%) were of undetermined intent.
– In 2011, Rx drug misuse and abuse caused about 2.5 million ER visits.
– Of these (above), more than 1.4 ER visits were related to pharmaceuticals.

Most Common Drugs Involved in Overdoses

– In 2013, of the 43,982 drug overdose deaths in the US, 22,767 (51.8%) were related to pharmaceuticals.
– Of the 22,767 deaths to relating to pharmaceutical overdose in 2013, 16,235 (71.3%) involved Opioid Analgesics (also called Opioid Pain Relievers or Prescription Painkillers, and 6,973 (30.6%) involved Benzodiazepines. (Some deaths included more than one type of drug.)
– In 2011, about 1.4 million ER department visits involved the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals.
– Among those ER visits, 501,207 visits were related to anti-anxiety and insomnia medications; and 420,040 visits were related to Opioid analgesics.
– Benzodiazepines are frequently found among people treated in the ER for misusing and abusing drugs.
– People who died of drug overdoses, often had a combination of Benzodiazepines and Opioids in their bodies.
*The stats above are provided by the CDC Control & Prevention, and UN.

Global Drug Use, as reported by the UN:

– Global drug use was stable, but nearly 200,000 drug related deaths according to the latest world drug report from the UN office on Drugs and Crim (UNODC) June 2014.
– It has been estimated, globally, that in 2012, between 162 million and 325 million people corresponding to between 3.5% and 7.0% of the world population – aged 15-64 – had used an illicit drug.
– The substances used (above) belong to the Cannabis, Opioid, Cocaine, or Amphetamine type stimulant group – at least once in the previous year.
– The drug problem by regular drug users and those with drug use disorders or dependence, remains stable at between 16 million and 39 million people.
– It is estimated, globally, that there were 183,000 (range: 95,000 – 226,00) drug related deaths (mostly overdoses) in 2012, with Opioid overdose the largest category.
– Drug overdose was responsible for 41,340 deaths in the US in 2011.
– US overdose deaths have increased for 12 straight years.
– In 2011, and for the fourth year in a rose, the number of US citizens, whose death were drug related, exceeded the number of deaths in traffic accidents (33,561).

*Source: The UN Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) 2014 World Drug Report.

How America’s healthcare system will keep you sick


Have you ever worried about how you’re going to get healthy these days? Has your doctor recommended diet and exercise? Well, if you’re like millions who are struggling to find health, you’re going to need a lot more than just diet and exercise. You’re going to have to fight like crazy against a mind-set of disease that’s paradoxically disguised as health care.

America’s healthcare system – health insurance companies, government health programs, drug companies, and conventionally-trained specialists are integrated to keep you sick.

Let’s take a look at how this all works from a perspective we don’t often look at – the big picture.

How are health insurance companies able to post $4 billion in Wall Street profit every quarter, boasting “business growth across all sectors?” Health insurance companies must increase premiums to beneficiaries, decrease reimbursements to doctors and deny coverage for care, citing pre-existing conditions and exclusion of services as their fundamental reasons. They segment the market into healthy people (80% or more) who can pay for the not-so-healthy people (<20%) who cannot pay but need care. They pay more for fix-it procedures like cardiac bypasses and punish people retroactively for going to the emergency room to seek care by denying “non-emergency coverage.” At the same time, they decrease preventive care reimbursements to primary care providers that keep patients out of the hospital.

Are health insurance companies really interested in keeping Americans healthy for the long-term, or more interested in a short-term view of increasing next quarter’s earnings? When money is in such short supply, will they truly invest in the long-term payment of aggressive, integrated health programs or will they attempt to keep their financial noses above water by paying as little as possible to the millions of aging people who are now burdening an already stressed system?

If you’re healthy right now, you’ll likely have trouble staying that way. You are the target group that needs to pay for disease care, now. Your money will be siphoned in the form of premiums and taxes at escalating amounts, effectively decreasing your ability to engage in health habits – quality food, nutritional counseling, preventive body work and rehabilitation, fitness memberships, personal trainers or psychological counseling for heightened levels of stress and anxiety over a healthcare system that’s imploding. In the end, you will squander your health care, now, for a future of disease that will never be “fixed” by a healthcare system with such short-sighted focus.

Our government program, Medicare, is a great example of what will happen to the healthy version of you in the future if you continue to support it. Promises made to Medicare beneficiaries in the last century that health will be cared for at retirement have revealed just how narrowly focused our government policies actually are. At roughly 10,800 Medicare recipients qualifying for the program per day, or 4 million baby boomers a year since 2010, it’s a no-brainer that Medicare will be insolvent once the remaining 64 million boomers qualify into the program. Federal deficits are estimated at $16 trillion, but when unfunded entitlements like Medicare and Social Security are included, the total is around $211 trillion.

Again, in order to pay for programs which are imploding now, the government must tax the healthy and young, funneling that money into disease care now.

What about drug companies? How do they make money? According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), $146.9 billion was spent on prescription drugs in the top 5 therapeutic classes in 2009, most of which are preventable conditions. From 1997 to 2004, total expenses for outpatient prescription drugs increased by 160%, from $72.3 to $191.0 billion, according to an April 2007 MEPS report.

If we become healthier as a nation and don’t require these drugs for our preventable conditions, how will drug companies make money? Between 1996 and 2006, total expenditures for cancer treatment increased from $46.9 to $57.5 billion. So what disease do drug companies need us to have in order to sell us their drugs at premium prices?

Believing that we are going to “cure cancer” has now become a wonderful lie that tugs at our hearts, opens our purses and perpetuates our reliance on drugs instead of funneling billions into the provision of health practices and education first. The National Cancer Institute 2012 Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer states that, “[cancers] are associated with being overweight or obese. Several of these cancers also are associated with not being sufficiently physically active.” But instead of money going toward aggressively correcting behavior, we raise money to endlessly search for a cure long after the fact.

Finally, what about our beloved medical specialists who, in America, out-number primary care providers by 3 to 1? How are specialists paid? How are they trained?

Conventional medical specialists are incentivized to cut, fix, prescribe and test. They spend 10-15 years in the minutia of disease mentality, gluing their eyes to the proverbial microscope. They are paid to search, find and destroy disease. The more specialized they are, the more disease-oriented their mind-set, having learned for many years to begin with the grossly damaged end product of a very sick living system – you – and then work backwards to find a cure. Specialists are not trained to step back and view the integrated big picture of health and its practices. Since they are experts in disease, their recommendations will be disease-focused under guidelines for the “prevention of disease,” rather than operating inside a paradigm of health first. At the end of that disease-focused exercise, specialists are taught to proudly declare that you, their patient, are healthy by virtue of the fact you don’t have a disease. And if they could not find a disease, they will be encouraged by a disease-oriented healthcare system to make up something in order to get paid; something called an ICD code.

The International Classification of Diseases or ICD-coding system which is the creed of the medical profession has gone from a few hundred categories to 144,000 in its recent tenth version. Doctors operating under this highly disease-driven medical system worth trillions are trained and paid as automatons to inadvertently deliver disease under a disguise of health care. And many don’t or can’t see that this is what they are trained to do.

But, is the absence of disease the equivalent of health?

We are trained to believe it is. We are incentivized to act like it is. We are pushed, punished and reprimanded to sink our mind-set and thoughts inside a system that must keep us this way – diseased, sick and poor, in order to make its next quarter earnings. Inside a system this corrupt with paradoxical messaging, one that seeks to keep us this sick, why do we wonder the more we spend, the sicker we seem to become?

The question is this. Can you separate yourself from a disease-oriented medical system to find optimal health, when all these parameters – health insurance, government programs, drug companies, and doctors – perpetuate disease via their beliefs, thoughts, training, messaging, and actions?

We are spinning into a death spiral – not only economically, but physically, emotionally and spiritually as well. The more we focus on the disease details – the more we desperately slash through the forest without seeing the trees – the sicker we will all become. No amount of money will ever solve that problem, because the problem is the way we see the problem.

Change the way you see things, push aside what you’ve been told to believe against all opposition, vilification and condemnation, and only then will you be able to find optimal health.

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Evil Angels of Death: The Doctors


Motives: Part 2

Certain doctors actually exploit their position for the express purpose of murder, such as those who kill for the following reasons:

  1. Experimentation: People become doctors because they’re innately curious about the human body and the only way to experiment with it without being discovered is to kill the victims. H. H. Holmes is a good example, and if Jack the Ripper was a physician, as some suspect, this may have motivated him, too. Obviously, Joseph Mengele had this motive, although he did not have to find ways to cover it up. He was free to experiment all he wanted on creatures that were considered less than human.
  2. Financial profit: Some doctors participate in schemes to defraud insurance companies by killing people and sharing in the death benefits. Dr. Morris Bolber organized a partnership for this type of crime in Philadelphia in the 1930s. It is estimated that he and his partners killed around fifty people before they were stopped.
  3. Bloodlust: For some, committing a violent death is as exciting as a sexual encounter. They want the heightened feeling that comes from the excitement that results from killing or watching others react to a death. Michael Swango, for example, described a major fatal accident as an ultimate fantasy and also admitted how much he loved coming out of the ER with an erection, knowing he was about to tell parents that their child is dead.
  4. Dr. Frank Sweeney
    Dr. Frank Sweeney

    Dr. Francis E. Sweeney was the prime suspect and man who super cop Eliot Ness believed was guilty in a series of thirteen Depression-era murders in Cleveland. Still officially unsolved, the killer was believed to have medical knowledge and, almost uniquely in serial killer history, killed men and women equally by expert decapitation. Sweeney, a brilliant but twisted surgeon, taunted Ness for years about not having sufficient evidence to convict him.

  5. Visionary purposes: Mengele believed that his experiments with people were a way to put science into the service of the Nazi goal of evolving a superior human race. He had a mission to kill.
  6. Punishment and power: Dr. Thomas Neill Cream poisoned four women in part for sadistic pleasure and in part to be their judge and executioner for their immoral behavior. Going to medical school in Canada, he was forced to marry a woman he’d aborted, so he left for England. Then he returned to Canada and that’s where he killed a chambermaid who came to him for an abortion. He moved to Chicago where another woman fell victim to his abortion methods. He then killed a man while “treating” his epilepsy because he coveted the man’s wife. For that he went to prison for ten years. (Although he claimed as he was hung years later that he was Jack the Ripper, he was in fact behind bars in 1888.) Going to London in 1891, he poisoned four prostitutes with strychnine. Identified and arrested, he was hanged in 1892.
  7. Dr.Harold Shipman
    Dr.Harold Shipman

    Relief for inner conflicts: Dr. Harold Shipman was convicted in England of 15 counts of murder in 2001. In court, he displayed indifference to the suffering he’d caused many families and contempt for the prosecution, which is indicative of sociopathy. However, according to Dr. Chris Missen, head of forensic psychology at Anglia Polytechnic University, Shipman actually had a secret self that was awash in monumental self-pity. He had watched his mother die when he was seventeen, which he may have interpreted as rejection and abandonment. He wanted the jury to believe that he had an impulse control problem, but in truth, he had been highly organized in the way he altered medical records and adopted the pretense of making proper arrangements. He’d even typed up a will for his last victim and forged her signature. “What might have been perceived as a deep inner hypersensitivity,” says Missen, “may have been no more than a swollen ego, in danger of imploding at the least pinprick.” Shipman could not handle potential rejection from women the age his mother would have been had she lived, so his older female patients brought out his inner conflicts. That means that what may have become suicidal despair in others turned into a homicidal rage in Shipman. He killed patients to keep from killing himself. If the estimates that his victims number nearly 300 are correct, then he killed an average of one patient a month since his medical career began.

The question can be asked whether it’s the position of power that shapes them into killers or whether they’re just sociopaths who managed to become doctors. A close look at one of the most flagrant offenders in American history may offer some clues.

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