Could the Error Rate during Surgery Really be This High?

Photo credit: thinkpanama / / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: thinkpanama / / CC BY-NC

A new research study has just been published on what really happens during surgery. The study was done at one of America’s better hospitals and the report is disturbing.

Researchers at Harvard were anxious to understand how many medical mistakes are actually made just before, during and immediately after surgery.

What did they find?

Not what they expected.

Half of all surgeries involve medical errors and medical malpractice.


Another chilling fact… The study was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital – considered by leading health authorities to be a U.S. leader in patient safety.

Not only did the Harvard team find a high error rate – mostly tied to medication errors – 30% of the errors resulted in significant patient harm.   Another 69% of the errors were defined as serious.

News of these results led one leading researcher at Yale to proclaim that “awareness of problems is where all solutions begin.”

So is the medical community just learning of the high rates of medical error (sometimes referred to as iatrogenesis) and medical malpractice for the first time?

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The Scary Truth About Modern Medicine


Photo credit: Best In Plastics / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


As shocking as it is remarkable…

We just received a copy of an interview conducted by the Editor (Dr. Eric Topol) of the very popular medical website, Medscape, with internationally renowned author and physician Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD. (recorded 10.12.15).

Here is an excerpt from that interview:

Dr. Eric Topol: We are facing some very important issues today that suggest how bad things are still in 2015. One is that we (physicians) make 12 million serious diagnostic medical errors a year, and that is unchanged, as best we know, since To Err is Human was published in 1999. It seems that without any changes, this will continue, and it has become inhumane to have all of these errors. To the top 20 drugs that are prescribed, by sales, at least, 80% of people are nonresponders. We give these drugs. We have hope, but the fact is that the plurality of patients don’t respond.

Then we have the issues of false-positive results in screening (mammography, PSA levels) at rates that are greater than 60%. Yet these tests are done widely in millions of people every year.

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Bad Docs and the Harm They Cause

As in any profession – there are all-stars and there are those not so good (and those just plain bad).

That is as true in medicine as in any other field.

Did you know that according to recent research – 6% of all physicians are responsible for 58% of all medical malpractice payments?

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 44,000 patients were killed annually (and many more injured) by medical errors? Just 12 years later – the journal HealthAffairs recalculated the data and concluded the number was closer to 450,000 per year. They also estimated that many hundreds of thousands more are injured each year by medical malpractice.

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How Much Do You Really Know About Your Surgeon?


Would you like to know in advance whether your surgeon was truly competent to perform your upcoming surgery?

Now you can.

ProPublica, an independent, non-profit and respected newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest has recently published what they call a “Surgeon Scorecard”. Guided by experts, ProPublica created this scorecard “by calculating death and complication rates for surgeons performing one of eight elective procedures in Medicare, carefully adjusting for differences in patient health, age and hospital quality”.

What did they find?

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When Patient Safety Takes a Back Seat

One of the great challenges in health care is finding ways to limit the power and influence of money in the system.

What do we mean?

Profit is a great motivator. The desire for profit is also a great corrupter. In fact, where there are massive profits to be made – there is often corruption.

We have written recently of the influence of money on drug choices in America. The big drug companies spend more to influence members of Congress, state legislatures and federal and state regulators than any other business lobby on earth… Even more than big oil. To make matters worse, all major news organizations are heavily reliant on drug ad dollars to turn a profit.

It’s an industry that falsifies research results to promote new drugs while paying physicians to promote and prescribe those drugs despite an absence of evidence of efficacy.

Certainly there are safety watchdogs – right? Yes – and no…

The U.S. Justice Department has just announced they’ve settled a case with former “voice of patient safety”, Dr. Chuck Denham, for accepting kickbacks to promote a company’s antiseptic product while serving as co-chairman of a Nonprofit Quality Forum committee in 2009 and 2010. “The Nonprofit Quality Forum, based in Washington, D.C., reviews evidence and makes recommendations on best practices that are considered the gold-standard by health care providers nationwide”.

Sounds like a group we can trust – right? Apparently not…even “consumer advocates” are for sale. Continue reading “When Patient Safety Takes a Back Seat” »

What’s the Annual Death Rate from Medical Errors?

The question in our headline is actually one that was recently asked of consumers by researchers here in the U.S.

The most common answer they got… 5,000 a year.

That’s not even close.

The actual number may be as high as 800,000 deaths per year from medical malpractice and drug related injuries – just in the U.S.

What’s more, the number of those suffering harm short of death may number in the millions per year when one includes medical malpractice (including surgical errors) and death from drug side effects.   The Institute for Healthcare Improvement estimates the rate of medical harm to be over 40,000 each and EVERY day.

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Is Your Surgeon Using Approved Tools?

When any of us require surgery for whatever the reason – we should be able to expect that the surgical equipment used by our surgeons will be FDA approved – correct?

But is that always the case?

Sadly – no.


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What Medical Errors Are a Concern for 2015?

Sometimes it helps to know what experts inside an industry are thinking to know what dangers you should be on alert for…

So we’ve done some homework for you to see what safety concerns doctors have for 2015.  Here is their list:

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