This one is going to go over well.

We calculated a mean rate of death from medical error of 251,454 a year using the studies reported since the 1999 IOM report and extrapolating to the total number of US hospital admissions in 2013 . . . We have estimated that medical error is the third biggest cause of death in the US and therefore requires greater attention.

Look at a Pretty Picture of this.

Pretty Picture on Top Causes of Death

Prior estimates of death by medical error have clocked in between 50 and 100,000 per year in the US, a number that would still be a Top Ten risk if the CDC statisticians included medical error as a risk factor. Oddly enough, they don’t! This new team looks at a variety of new studies making estimates of death by medical error to derive a new estimate that is 2.5 times larger. And! They think they are still underestimating the estimate!

These researchers recommend a change in the official death record form to include a slot for checking off medical errors. Currently – and this is why it is so hard to get a more precise count on this risk – the official death record does not ask about errors. Gee. The guys who kill you with mistakes also design the death record and somehow or another they don’t include a box for, Oops!

Is there a Local more ripe for persuasion than this? First, see all the self persuasion in the self evasion of counting the change with medical errors and deaths. Physicians think that they are saving lives so it is inconceivable that they would do anything that killed Other Guys. See the boiling pot of Dissonance. Highly trained, skilled, motivated, and paid good Other Guys do Something that kills patients. See any inconsistencies between attitude and beliefs and behaviors in that? Dissonance must always be operating in health care workers, especially when a mistake occurs in front of a death.

Second, see the legal risks in such reporting. To put a field in the death record called Oops! admits that a health care worker killed an Other Guy. Think an attorney might find that useful information? Officially counting medical errors is an automatic lawsuit.

Third, the only way we are going to get an understanding of this problem and how it occurs, is through persuasion. Physicians and the medical community for both self-persuasion and legal reasons are not going to lean in on their own. Good grief, that early low estimate of 50-100,000 deaths from medical errors has been around since the late 1990s! Not even the death record has changed. And health workers still won’t wash their hands to prevent infections. If the plain facts of a preventable risk don’t create a change, you’re going to need a bigger boat and one that better have persuasion on board.

P.S. Professor Poopypants is not pleased with that Pretty Picture from BMJ. Note the inclusion of a Firearms category that counts 34,000 US annual deaths. That’s pure persuasion from the authors and the BMJ. Here’s the latest count from the CDC on US causes of death.

CDC 2014 Leading Causes of Death

Gee. Don’t see a category called Firearms in there, do you? In fact, a count of 34,000 cannot crack the Top Ten. And the authors deliberately omit much larger risks like Alzheimer’s and diabetes from their Pretty Picture to present their pure persuasion on firearms.

Now, if you search the CDC website, you will find that they do indeed estimate that 34,000 Americans die from firearms, but that is entirely misleading in this counting context. The CDC also tells you that 21,000 of those firearm deaths were suicides. In other words, the BMJ Pretty Picture is counting the same death two ways – one as a suicide and then again as a firearm death. And, if you continue searching the CDC website, you will find that they estimate 11,000 firearm deaths are due to murder. So, yeah, firearms are a cause of death through the deliberate acts of murder and suicide. Does murder and suicide only count if executed with a gun? Poison doesn’t count. Hanging. Beating. Stabbing.

Think about it. These authors estimate that their peers doing normal business kill 250,000 Americans each year through errors. And then they persuasively slip Firearms into the Top Ten list with that Pretty Picture, conveniently omitting several risks with greater counts, double counting deaths, defining a firearm as a cause of death like cancer or heart disease, resulting in a total that is about 1/10th the size of medical errors. There is no hope for science with these guys.

P.P.S. Why isn’t AARP panthering the hell out of this? Yeah, it would put you are odds with the AMA, but you could kick some serious persuasion ass with AARP Other Guys. Organize them into writing letters to Congress. Sign petitions. Put error codes on death records!

Good grief! Why aren’t attorneys panthering the hell out of this?

P.P.P.S. Getting ready for a visit to a hospital, clinic, or office? You might want to get a bit aggressive with the personnel about their WATTage, self control, and safety behavior. The life you save may be your own.


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