The hidden killer
Most people don't like doctors and hospitals. It's really an indirect effect instead of a direct one because when we have to go to one or the other, it means something is wrong with us and that's the part we don't like. But I also know people who say they don't want to go to the doctor for fear of finding out something's wrong with them they didn't already know about. Others contend that a doctor will always find something wrong with you so you'll have to go back over and over. We do live in a capitalistic society and doctoring is right up at the top of the food chain.
But besides the above mentioned reasons not to want to go to the doctor or the hospital, there is a far greater, more insidious reason. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, medical errors in hospitals that lead to anything from undetected complications to medication mix-ups are responsible for more than 250,000 deaths a year. In fact, they are the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more lives each year than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease.
But hospitals are not required to release this information to the public because it's considered to be confidential proprietary information. So regardless of the hospital you're being checked into, there's no easy or simple way to determine their safety standard. It's a crapshoot and you're just as likely to be admitted to a hospital with high accidental death rates as one with low ones. And the amazing thing is, we go to the hospital to be cured. Nobody likes lying in a hospital bed, or eating hospital food, or being poked and prodded by people you don't know at all hours of the day and night but that's what we endure to have a problem our body is having fixed. And of all the unpleasant indignities we must endure while we're in the hospital, it never occurs to us that accidental death might be the ultimate indignity. We don't question what's done to us while we're in the hospital because of a deep and abiding faith in the medical profession.
This faith in doctors and other hospital personnel has a long history. We know the incredible amount of training doctors and staff must receive before they're allowed to work and so we assume they're all competent and qualified. But like any profession, some are more competent and qualified than others and some slip through, graduate and get jobs who aren't very competent or qualified at all. If you have an incompetent plumber and he screws up one of your pipes, you can hire another more qualified plumber to fix his mistake. But if you have an incompetent doctor or nurse, their mistake might lead to your death.
The researchers at Johns Hopkins argue that federal mandates should be revised to require doctors to disclose medical errors that resulted in a preventable death. This happens with other accidental deaths that occur in plane crashes, automobile crashes and the like and there's no reason why it shouldn't be disclosed about hospitals either. All of us have the right to know our safety chances before we put ourselves at risk. Even though flying is the safest transportation method known to man, many people still won't fly because they're afraid of crashing and dying. Their logic is if I don't fly, I can't die in a plane crash.
Shouldn't people be able to look at the safety records of hospitals the same way we do airlines to see if being admitted to a hospital is worth the risk? Shouldn't we be able to compare safety rates at hospitals and choose only the safest, causing those that are less safe to either dramatically improve their safety record or go out of business?
There is no way that errors made while a person is in the hospital should be the third leading cause of death in the United States. It's shameful, even scandalous, and it needs to be fixed right away.