There is a prevailing belief that modernity translates into better health. A corollary of this logic is that we can live our lives pretty much as we want because we can always buy a repair. You know, the car won't start, the TV is broken, and the telephone is dead, no problem. Just call in an expert, spend some money and all is well. So then, if our ticker falters, joints creak, or an unwanted growth pops up, no problem. Buy some modern medical care. If that doesn't work, then the problem will surely be fixed with more money, better insurance, increased hospital funding, more research, more doctors, and better equipment and technology. Wrong.
The following is taken right from the pages of the Journal of the American Medical Association (July 26, 2000): "Of 13 countries in a recent (health) comparison, the United States (the most modern and advanced in the world) ranks an average of 12th (second from the bottom)..."
Additionally, the U.S. ranks:
- Last for low birth weight
- Last for neonatal and infant mortality overall
- Eleventh for post neonatal mortality
- Last for years of potential life lost
- Eleventh for female life expectancy at one year of age, and next to last for males
- Tenth for age adjusted mortality (life expectancy after age 40)
The World Health Organization, using different indicators, ranked the U.S. 15th among 25 industrialized nations.
Some might say these dismal results are because of smoking, alcohol, cholesterol, saturated fats, and poor penetration of medical care across economic strata. Not so. Epidemiological studies prove that overall health is greater in countries where economies are poorer and these health risks are worse.
Nor is failed American health due to lack of technology. The U.S. is, for example, second only to Japan in the number of magnetic resonance imaging units (MRIs) and computed tomography scanners per capita. Neither can lack of medical personnel be blamed since the U.S. has the highest number of employees per hospital bed in the world.1, 2
So what is the problem? Here are some clues as revealed in the same journal:
- 12,000 deaths per year from unnecessary surgery3
- 7,000 deaths per year from medication errors in hospitals
- 20,000 deaths per year from other hospital errors
- 80,000 deaths per year from nosocomial (originating in a hospital) infections
- 106,000 deaths per year from adverse effects of medications (total adverse drug reactions yearly: 2.2 million)3-6
That totals 225,000 medically caused deaths in hospitals per year. Another study estimates 284,000 deaths per year. An analysis of deaths due to outpatient care jumps these figures by 199,000 for a new total of 483,000 medically related deaths per year. Other studies based upon the expected mortality from over 16 million unnecessary medical and surgical events combined with unnecessary hospitalizations estimates 783,936 deaths, another totals 999,936, and yet another 1,189,576. These numbers are conservative since, of course, doctors and hospitals are not going to eagerly report all their mistakes. Nobody is particularly proud of error, no one is anxious to get sued, and many are afraid of reprisals if they whistle blow on others. So, only about 1.5% are reported, at most only 20%.5-9
Keep in mind that these figures are not a reflection of the precarious health of those visiting a doctor or admitted to a hospital. The deaths are the direct result of the medical intervention, not the presenting illness or malady of the patient.10
Think about those numbers for a moment. It’s like every day of the year five of the largest airliners filled to the brim with passengers crashing and killing everyone on board. How many would take to flying if that were the case? The public outcry would be deafening and the airlines would go bankrupt.
It goes virtually unnoticed, however, that when people get on board the medical juggernaut they are at such great risk. Instead of being up in arms, people clamor for more high-risk medical planes and free tickets to board them. Like lambs led to the slaughter, medical consumers just keep piling into doctors’ offices and hospitals, bloating the medical industry with profits and importuning politicians for more insurance and social programs enabling them to do it even more.
The poor health ranking in the U.S. is not because of lack of modern medical care, it is because of it. Aside from the fact that ANY medical intervention is dangerous, it is estimated that some twenty percent of diagnoses are wrong and result in serious injury or death. Over a quarter of all radiological tests, including CAT scans and MRIs, are misread. Modern medicine obeys the Inverse Care Law: The more medical care, the greater the risk. People are dying to get healthy.11, 12
This does not deny that each person’s life choices impact health as well. People cannot live with abandon and then expect someone else to fix things. Imagine the frustration that physicians must feel as they are faced day to day with patients wanting a quick fix to cure a lifetime of unhealthy life choices. By attempting to satisfy the unquenchable appetite of a public that refuses to live as if thinking matters, modern medical tinkering has become a huge threat to life and limb.13
Why do we not hear more about this disaster? Months are spent analyzing the death of Princess Diana, yet we do not hear a word about the hundreds of thousands dying at the hands of modern medical care. Perhaps it’s just too difficult to come to grips with the inevitable—and unbelievable—conclusion that when all the deaths reported and not reported are tallied, medical intervention is likely the leading cause of death in America! And this does not even take into consideration the hundreds of thousands of people who are maimed or otherwise harmed but don't die.14
Time to splash some cold water on our society’s inebriated faith in and reliance on modern medicine. And remember, the above are just cold statistics. Take any one of these medical ‘accidents’ and humanize it to the real pain, suffering, financial devastation, grief, and family disruption, and a heart rending and tragic story could be told. It is a disaster of a magnitude unequalled by anything in human history. And it's repeated every day. By sheer numbers, it makes 9/11, all the deaths in all U.S. wars, deaths by automobile accidents, homicides and everything else pale in comparison.
The media should be shouting about medical risks from atop their broadcast towers. Instead there is mostly silence because news organizations are made of people who have been buffaloed like the rest of us. Besides, such information is best left on the editor’s cutting room floor where it will not insult drug and medical advertisers. But the facts remain, albeit in obscure (to the public) medical and scientific publications. To a crystalline degree, the evidence there proves the disproportionate dangers of modern medical care. In the meantime, instead of standing before the world in a posture of shame, the medical industry promotes itself as the only beacon of hope. Rather than shackling it and sending it to the Hague for crimes against humanity, the public just bows and pays the escalating tithe.
From just 1995 to 2002, pharmaceutical sales jumped from $65 billion to over $200 billion. From 2002 to 2006 sales jumped to over $600 billion. That's about one prescription for each man, woman and child in the country every 10 days. There are at least 36 million adverse drug events per year.15 We can only expect that to escalate since the AIDS-interest groups have now forced the FDA to speed the approval process. Little wonder that in just the six years following the turn of the millennium, 65,000 product liability lawsuits have been filed against drug makers
The risks from drugs that the FDA has approved are so great that Harvard University professors are advising that physicians not prescribe any new medications. In the professors’ evaluation of 548 new drugs introduced over a 25-year period, it was found that at least 20% could cause life-threatening reactions and several had to be withdrawn from the market because they were lethal. The problem is the effects were not discovered until years after the drugs had been widely prescribed and used by naïve and trusting doctors and patients.16
One must wonder how this could be when the FDA is a government agency charged with protecting consumers. Like all organizations, the FDA is comprised of humans, many of whom have a vested interest in protecting the medical paradigm and speeding products to market. Some even have direct links to the pharmaceutical industries they are supposed to be policing.17
Pharmaceutical industries that spend hundreds of millions in research exert tremendous pressure on regulators. The pretense is that it is unconscionable for a bureaucracy to hold back drugs that are life saving. So, in just eight years during the 90’s, drug approval rates jumped from 60% to 80%. In the meantime, new diet pills, heartburn medications, cholesterol drugs, and antibiotics prescribed for non-life threatening conditions are killing people by the thousands.18-20
The philosophy of symptom-based, reductionistic, episodic, after-the-fact, crisis care medicine is seriously flawed—and very deadly. Wrong philosophical premises are hamstringing good and well-meaning doctors. Doctors are crippled every bit as much as explorers who once believed in a flat Earth. Trying to achieve health with modern allopathic medicine is like trying to fix computers with a hammer because that's the only tool one is taught to use or believe in.
Don't wait for the system to change. Old ideas die too hard. The mega-medical industry is not going to be quick in either admitting error or revamping itself. Your health is at stake. Think prevention and natural holistic cure. Study, learn, grow, be skeptical, change lifestyle, be self-reliant…be a thinking person. That's the best and only road to health.
1. McKinlay, J. B., et al. Cities and Sickness: Health Care in Urban America. Urban Affairs Annual Reviews, 25 (1983).
2. London School of Hygiene & Topical Medicine. US ranks last amoung other industrialized nations on preventable deaths. ScienceDaily, 8 Jan 2008.
3. Bates. Drugs and adverse drug reactions: How worried should we be? Journal of the American Medical Association, 279 (1998), 1216-1217.
4. Moore, TJ., et al. Serious adverse drug events reported to the Food and Drug Administration, 1998-2005. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167 (2007), 1752-1759.
5. Lazarou, J., et al. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients. Journal of the American Medical Association, 279 (1998), 1200.
6. Center for Disease Control. Unintentional Poisoning Deaths – United States 199-2004. MMWR Weekly, 56 (2007), 93-96.
7. Institute of Medicine. To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000.
8. Alberti, K.G.M.M. Medical errors: a common problem. British Medical Journal, 322 (2001), 501-502.
9. Vincent, C., et al. Adverse events in British hospitals: a preliminary retrospective record view. British Medical Journal, 322 (2001), 517-519.
10. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. A follow-up review of wrong site surgery. Sentinel Event, 24 (2001).
11. Associated Press. Botched surgeries lead to injury. The New York Times, 29 Nov 2007.
12. Zhan C., et al. Excess Length of Stay, Charges, and Mortality Attributable Medical Injuries During Hospitalization. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 290 (2003), 1868-1874.
13. Groopman, J. How Doctors Think. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.
14. Hart, J.T. The inverse care law. The Lancet, 1 (1971), 405-412.
15. Starfield B. Is US health really the best in the world? The Journal of the American Medical Association, 26 (2000), 483-485.
16. Null, G., et al. Death by Medicine. HealthE-Living News, Jul 2004.
17. Bates, D. Los Angeles Times, 8 Jan 2001.
18. Null, G. In pharmaceuticals we trust. Townsend Letter, Feb/Mar 2007, 128.
19. Bates, D. W., et al. Drugs and adverse drug reactions: How worried should we be? The Journal of the American Medical Association, 279 (1998), 1216-1217.
20. Willman D. The new FDA: how a new policy led to seven deadly drugs. Los Angeles Times. 20 Dec 2000, 1.