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Urban Legends/deaths caused by physicians

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Adder wrote at 2006-09-06 21:43:54
I agree with the last person who added to this answer. It is true that a gun is better than a voice recorder when it comes to defending your life against another gun owner in case he accidentally tries to kill you. And it also works against doctors too! Guns don't prevent choking though, that's why I switched to a purely liquid diet 7 years ago.




Dr Richard Biek wrote at 2006-10-08 05:48:31
Benton County News Tribune on 17th of November, 1999.

Number of gun owners in the US = 80,000,000.   Number of accidental gun deaths per year (all age groups) = 1,500.

Accidental deaths per gun owner per year = 0.0000188

US 1999 total active physicians 720,855, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2001 edition.

US physician caused inadvertent deaths per year

   * 12,000 -- unnecessary surgery

   * 7,000 -- medication errors in hospitals

   * 20,000 -- other errors in hospitals

   * 80,000 -- infections in hospitals

   * 106,000 -- non-error, negative effects of drugs

Total = 225,000, Dr. Barbara Starfield of Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health,

Journal of the American Medical Association, July 2000

Inadvertent deaths = 0.354 per physician per year

Doctors are 18,800 times more dangerous than gun owners.


truth seeker wrote at 2007-01-06 01:39:41
CRITICAL THINKING 101: Four points:



(1) A slight of hand with the numbers here is that only the number of accidental deaths caused by guns are mentioned. That leaves out murders and suicides. If you go to the CDC site (http://webapp.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate10_sy.html), you can get the actual statistics. For example in 2004 (latest year for which they have statistics) there were  29,569 gun deaths (all types) in the US. Note that this is almost 20 times the number mentioned in the piece - 1500.





(2) The previous post by "Dr Richard Biek" (as well as the original story being questioned here) is at odds with the following information (a cut-and-paste from the U.S. Government's Department of Health and Human Services' - Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality" web site.



From: "Medical Errors: The Scope of the Problem" (http://www.ahrq.gov/qual/errback.htm): "The November 1999 report of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), entitled To Err Is Human: Building A Safer Health System, focused a great deal of attention on the issue of medical errors and patient safety. The report indicated that as many as 44,000 to 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as the result of medical errors."



Clearly, only a subset of these errors were made by physicians. I just spent about 20 min looking around this AHRQ site, but I couldn't find that number broken out anywhere. There are a very large number of related documents, however, so the number may be there somewhere.



(3) Whatever the correct numbers are both the previous post and the the original article are examples of poor analysis and "How to Lie with Statistics". These rates (e.g. accidental deaths per physician) can't be directly compared. The first thing to look at in this case is the absolute numbers; not divided by number of physicians and number of gun owners. Even then, however, it is too simplistic to compare these directly. Beyond that, however, something like this requires a much more in-depth analysis looking at the types of causes in both types of deaths.



(4) The bottom line is that both medical accidents and gun deaths are serious problems that all of us and especially health and public-safety professionals still need to address.  


Demolishun wrote at 2008-03-07 20:18:47
While this scenario is somewhat silly it does have some truth to it.  The medical industry is very much in denial about human mistakes causing deaths.  



The medical industry has a long tradition of doing things a certain way.  The problem is that "way" tends to embed many barriers to correcting the behaviors that lead to mistakes that cause death.  



There is a movement within all industries in the USA to correct these kinds of problems.  The research was originally done by the Nuclear Industry after 3 mile island.  This resulted in INPO (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Nuclear_Power_Operations) being formed.  What is significant is they have identified across all industries organizational defects that can lead to mistakes causing injury or death.  The medical industry is starting to realize they do need to make changes.  However, as I mentioned before, they are YEARS away from complete adoption.



Here are a couple examples of organizational defects:

1. Lack of questioning attitude. (cannot question senior medical professionals without repercussions, ever had a doctor insult you for asking a question?)

2. Poor systems for exchanging information. (scribbled prescriptions, this kills a lot of people)



So, that taken  in light of the excellent training programs the NRA offers.  You have to wonder if there is really a statistically significant threat to using the services of medical doctors versus owning a gun.  However, you should NOT be using statistics to try and PROVE that point.  You should using statistics to ELIMINATE hypothetical questions to that effect if you can.  So, despite the interesting hypothesis these statistics provoke, it is really a misuse of statistical information to draw conclusions without more evidence to support it.


Ratfink wrote at 2010-01-16 15:55:57
Though I agree these figures are pretty silly, I have to reply to some points the truth seeker brought up.



"(1) A slight of hand with the numbers here is that only the number of accidental deaths caused by guns are mentioned..."

There is no slight of hand going on, simply comparing accidental deaths from A and comparing it to B.  Adding intentional and or suicides to group A without adjusting part B to match would at best invalidate the study.  You cannot add gun related suicide without adding intentional drug overdose.  Nor can you add lawful deaths caused by firearms be it in the hands of a individual defending themselves or a peace officer upholding the law without adding deaths coming from things such as aborting a baby to save the mother's life or deaths due to risky treatments designed to save the patient's life.  



"(2) The previous post by "Dr Richard Biek" (as well as the original story being questioned here) is at odds with the following information (a cut-and-paste from the U.S. Government's Department of Health and Human Services' - Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality" web site..."



First of all the figures arn't Dr Biek's (whomever he is) but Dr. Barbara Starfield.  They are by They are at odds, Dr Starfield's study was a lot more extensive.  The article was published in issue 284 of JAMA back in 2000 here is the abstract, http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/extract/284/4/483.  Unfortunately to read the article you need a subscription to the Journal or get access to a dead tree version.



I agree to some degree with #3 (these aren't things easy to compare to the point the study is silly, but I don't believe it's lying with statistics) and agree 100% with #4.  


dsrtdawg wrote at 2010-04-30 16:17:34
But, the key argument FOR gun control is the "accidental death for the children" argument.  The CRIMINAL element that is shooting one another is not likely to obey the gun control laws.  So, the point of the legend still stands in my humble point of view.


A gun owner wrote at 2010-06-05 04:15:21
CORRECTION:   See http://www.cancure.org/medical_errors.htm



225,000 deaths per year in the US from iatrogenic causes which ranks these deaths as the # 3 killer. Iatrogenic is a term used when a patient dies as a direct result of treatments by a physician, whether it is from misdiagnosis of the ailment or from adverse drug reactions used to treat the illness. (drug reactions are the most common cause).


Baz wrote at 2010-06-25 17:15:29
The key here is not the numbers, but the comparison. A physician constantly uses his/her "physicianess" on a daily basis, thousands of times a year. A gun owner typically does not. A more fair comparison would be to have a gun owner meet with people (children included) several times a day and have them play with his/her loaded gun. Then let's see what has more accidental deaths.


56flyboy wrote at 2010-09-08 17:38:01
Physicians are indeed more dangerous than guns!



This was posted on the following site:



http://www.cancure.org/medical_errors.htm



Medical Errors - A Leading Cause of Death



The JOURNAL of the AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAMA) Vol 284, No 4, July 26th 2000 article written by Dr Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, shows that medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in the United States.



The report apparently shows there are 2,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery; 7000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals; 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals; 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals; 106,000 deaths/year from non-error, adverse effects of medications - these total up to 225,000 deaths per year in the US from iatrogenic causes which ranks these deaths as the # 3 killer. Iatrogenic is a term used when a patient dies as a direct result of treatments by a physician, whether it is from misdiagnosis of the ailment or from adverse drug reactions used to treat the illness. (drug reactions are the most common cause).

The National Academies website published an article titled "Preventing Death and Injury From Medical Errors Requires Dramatic, System-Wide Changes." which you can read online at  http://www4.nationalacademies.org/news.nsf/isbn/0309068371?OpenDocument or the book "To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System" at http://www.nap.edu/books/0309068371/html/ - These show medical errors as a leading cause of death.



Based on the findings of one major study, medical errors kill some 44,000 people in U.S. hospitals each year. Another study puts the number much higher, at 98,000. Even using the lower estimate, more people die from medical mistakes each year than from highway accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. And deaths from medication errors that take place both in and out of hospitals are aid to be more than 7,000 annually.


psnx74205 wrote at 2010-10-07 13:05:30
The U.S. health care system may contribute to poor health or death.  According to Dr. Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, 250,000 deaths per year are caused by medical errors, making this the third-largest cause of death in the U.S., following heart disease and cancer.



Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr. Starfield has documented the tragedy of the traditional medical paradigm in the following statistics:



Deaths Per Year

Cause

106,000  Non-error, negative effects of drugs2  

80,000  Infections in hospitals10  

45,000  Other errors in hospitals10  

12,000  Unnecessary surgery8  

7,000  Medication errors in hospitals9  

250,000  Total deaths per year from iatrogenic* causes



* The term iatrogenic is defined as "induced in a patient by a physician's activity, manner, or therapy.  Used especially to pertain to a complication of treatment."




davidh3 wrote at 2010-10-20 17:00:47
(A) There are active efforts across the nation to reduce doctor-caused deaths, especially hospital-acquired infections.  There have been dramatic reductions at some hospitals.  Doctors do not resist these efforts, at least, not anymore.  There are not similar efforts to reduce gun deaths.  Any talk at such efforts are quashed by the NRA and other gun enthusiasts.



(B) When I am sick, I do not go out and buy a gun.  I go see a doctor.  There are risks to seeing a doctor or especially having to be hospitalized.  But I weigh the risks and compare that to benefits.  There are very few health or societal benefits to (private) gun ownership.  



(C) It's not guns that kill people, it's gun users.  Guns happen to be a highly convenient and highly deadly way of inflicting injury.  As with decisions to see a doctor, one may weigh benefit vs risk.  Sure it's fun to fire a gun, and for some people, sure it's fun to kill animals and to pack heat in public places.  But how deadly is too deadly for private ownership?  If guns are okay, why not howitzers or, if you can afford it, nuclear bombs?  


Josh wrote at 2011-01-09 09:49:57
Cassandra,



I believe you missed the sarcasm of the original message. It's not a real attack on physicians. No one is actually suggesting not seeing a doctor. It's a shot at politicians who desire to ban gun ownership based on the pretense that guns are harmful and likely to cause accidental injury.



Thus, the argument of seeing more patients is irrelevant because it still doesn't rule out YOUR likelihood of being killed by one. The argument is that you have a better chance of being killed by your doctor and not your own gun.



If your argument is safety issue, don't see your doctor. (obviously neither statistic is high enough to regard as a "major issue") There in lies the sarcasm.


Counsel wrote at 2011-01-10 23:11:50
I like your attempt to answer the question, but I would rather have seen a better analysis than, "To compare them to gun owners, as is done above, we would have to start by ensuring that each gun owner sees a large number of "patients" every day, each of which wants to play with his gun. (To simulate that most people visiting a doctor are already sick, those visiting the gun owner will have an interest in playing with the gun.)"



The patient isn't playing with anything.  Rather, the patient is getting "care" that kills the patient--the doctor acts, and that act ends up killing the patient.  It isn't as if the patient did something that caused their death.  This is like the concealed carry permit holder who is around people all day long but never hurts anyone.  The act by either (physician or ccw permit holder) could be a negligent act that causes the death of another.  Not all people who die after being treated would have died or remained sick... My grandmother died due to "physician" action...settled by her sons (my dad and uncle).  The physician should have been taken to court and lost his license...



You do a nobody any service by clouding the waters.



Guns by themselves do nothing.  People chose a weapon and can do terrible things.  Deal with making people less likely to become violent.  I guarantee you that before someone "snaps," there were words used--first calmly then not so calmly.  Teach kids, in school, how to reach a consensus and not be bullies.  Until you start to do this, there will be those that don't get it.  



Of course, there are always "nuts."



Your reasoning could be much better than the answer you provided.  Surely you realize that too?


Jonmayer wrote at 2011-02-06 07:56:35
The numbers are phoney balonge.  First, intentional gun crime matters too.  Fewer innocent people die of gun violence in other countries where it's banned. Guns kill people with little added benefit. Doctors may make mistakes, but they save lives. Cars kill people, but they are productive. I support regulating guns heavily because it will make my children safer and will save lives. The comparison to regulating doctors (or cars) is just silly and it doesn't make any real point. Guns kill pele for no good reason and we'd all be better off, on average, if they were more highly regulated.  


Michael wrote at 2012-02-07 22:56:11
Lizbeth and Cassandra



Just like "accidental deaths per gun" doesn't address deliberate killings by gun, "Accidental deaths caused by physicians" doesn't address how many physicians deliberately kill their patients. :O I guess the most likely truth is that like my comment re physicians killing intentionally, the statistics referred to are suppose to be a "joke" because of the comparison of apples to oranges. BTW the physician stats are for "accidental deaths by physicians" that are CAUSED by physicians, not just seeing sick people. The journal of AMA says, The JOURNAL of the AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAMA) Vol 284, No 4, July 26th 2000 article written by Dr Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, shows that medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in the United States.



The report apparently shows there are 2,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery; 7000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals; 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals; 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals; 106,000 deaths/year from non-error, adverse effects of medications - these total up to 225,000 deaths per year in the US from iatrogenic causes which ranks these deaths as the # 3 killer. Iatrogenic is a term used when a patient dies as a direct result of treatments by a physician, whether it is from misdiagnosis of the ailment or from adverse drug reactions used to treat the illness. (drug reactions are the most common cause). Can't be compared to guns but nonetheless scary as hell.


Lockett wrote at 2012-08-07 00:15:18
As a gun owner there is no doubt better gun control would make this a better world. But if there were absolutely no guns in the world, would some of you out there be ready to outlaw bows & arrows? And then rocks.....


JusJoe wrote at 2015-06-30 00:29:26
It would be a conceited people that would ignore the fact that iatrogenic death is a far too common cause of death in the US. Equally conceited is the notion that doctors are a different breed in the midst of the general population. No, they are typical Americans who will not change methodology until forced by law to do so. Our arrogance has blinded us to our need to hold the medical profession (pharmaceutical industry, medical researchers, care providers, educational institutions) accountable.  


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