Just Another Statistic

Leading Causes of Death statistics from CDC Website

Leading Causes of Death statistics from CDC Website

Five years ago my uncle, my dad’s only sibling, died from complications after heart surgery. He had a minimally invasive procedure done with a da Vinci device. The surgeon performed his task flawlessly, but the assistant punctured one of his lungs when removing the device. Other missteps by the hospital staff further complicated his already weakened system and he never regained consciousness.

A recent article in Forbes, Stunning News On Preventable Deaths In Hospitals, describes the magnitude of this issue:

In 1999, Americans learned that 98,000 people were dying every year from preventable errors in hospitals. That came from a widely touted analysis by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called To Err Is Human. This was the “Silent Spring” of the health care world, grabbing headlines for revealing a serious and deadly problem that required policy and action.

As it turns out, those were the good old days.

According to a new study just out from the prestigious Journal of Patient Safety, four times as many people die from preventable medical errors than we thought, as many as 440,000 a year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prepares a report every year on the leading causes of death, but “physician error, medication error and adverse events from drugs and surgery” aren’t on the list. This group put together would be the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

Revised Leading Causes of Death

Why is this? In his latest book, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, Dr. Colin Campbell explains:

A federal entity, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was given responsibility in 1999 of monitoring medical errors nationwide in most U.S. hospitals. They have been diligent in getting all U.S. hospitals to systematically monitor such information, and have accumulated data for about five years as of this writing. … An analysis of a subset of all hospitalized Medicare patients, for example, concluded that from 2000 to 2002, “over 575,000 preventable deaths occurred” nationwide.

This more recent report confirms that these errors remain a “leading” cause of death; in fact, the report’s authors agree that this number of deaths is so high that it should be considered an “epidemic.” How is it possible that this cause of death might be an epidemic in one government report and not even be listed on a separate government website as a leading cause of death? Of course, such publicity would be bad for the disease business and if the U.S. government cares about one thing here, it’s the economic interests of the medical establishment, one of the leading donors to political candidates, parties, and political action committees. *

Our healthcare disease care system is broken. Pioneers in the use of whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diets like Drs. Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn or John McDougall are told that their diets are too “extreme.” Patients don’t want to have to give up eating the foods they love – meat, fish, diary, eggs, olive oil.

But doctors keep sending patients to the hospital for angioplasty, stents and bypass surgery. During bypass surgery the patient’s chest is opened, a vein is pulled from their leg for the bypass and stitched around the blocked artery. Doesn’t that sound “extreme” to you? If patients have these procedures, but don’t change their diets, they will need to have new stents or bypasses done. And the more surgeries, the more chances for mistakes, infection or death.

Doctors who advocate WFPB diets have found that patients ARE willing to change their diets for the chance to live disease- and pain-free lives. Instead, their patients want to know why no one told them before?

No one told my uncle about how changes to his diet could reverse his heart condition. For his family and friends, his death was a terrible tragedy. To our disease care system he became a statistic.

* Excerpt From: T. Colin Campbell & Howard Jacobson. “Whole.” BenBella Books, Inc., 2013
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One thought on “Just Another Statistic

  1. Thank you for sharing this Joel. Andy’s death was a tragedy, what a feeling of helplessness knowing it was preventable. Working in the quality dept at the hospital it’s something that is very real to me. I see the medical errors, surgical infection and hospital acquired
    conditions (HAC) rates regularly.

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