Death by Doctoring

Biomedical practice as 3rd or 4th major cause of death.  

Recent statistics showing death rates over a 10-year period from medical intervention in the United States:

Condition 10-Year Deaths
Adverse Drug Reaction 1.06 million
Medical error 0.98 million
Bedsores 1.15 million
Nosocomial Infection 0.88 million
Malnutrition 1.09 million
Outpatients 1.99 million
Unnecessary Procedures 371,360
TOTAL 7,841,360 (7.8 million)

This amounts to more than the casualties of all wars fought by America.


The JOURNAL of the AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAMA) Vol 284, No 4, July 26th 2000

An article written by Dr Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, of the John 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 third 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). 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.


Prescription Drugs – Leading Killer in USA

… a statistical study of hospital deaths in the U.S. conducted at the University of Toronto revealed that pharmaceutical drugs kill more people every year than are killed in traffic accidents.  The study is said to show that more than two million American hospitalized patients suffered a serious adverse drug reaction (ADR) within the 12-month period of the study and, of these, over 100,000 died as a result. The researchers found that over 75 per cent of these ADRs were dose-dependent, which suggests they were due to the inherent toxicity of the drugs rather than to allergic reactions.

The data did not include fatal reactions caused by accidental overdoses or errors in administration of the drugs. If these had been included, it is estimated that another 100,000 deaths would be added to the total every year.

The researchers concluded that ADRs are now the fourth leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease, cancer, and stroke.



Extract from: 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know by Russ Kick
Published by The Disinformation Company Ltd.

Getting the wrong drug or the wrong dosage kills hundreds or thousands of people each year, with many times that number getting injured … Even higher than the number of people who die from medication errors is the number of people who die from medication, period. Even when a prescription drug is dispensed properly, there’s no guarantee it won’t end up killing you. A remarkable study in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that prescription drugs kill around 106,000 people in the US every year, which ranks prescription drugs as the fourth leading cause of death. Furthermore, each year sees 2,216,000 serious adverse drug reactions (defined as “those that required hospitalization, were permanently disabling, or resulted in death”). The authors of this 1998 study performed a meta-analysis on 39 previous studies covering 32 years. They factored out such things as medication errors, abuse of prescription drugs, and adverse reactions not considered serious. Plus, the study involved only people who had either been hospitalized due to drug reactions or who experienced reactions while in the hospital. People who died immediately (and, thus, never went to the hospital) and those whose deaths weren’t realized to be due to prescription drugs were not included, so the true figure is probably higher. Four years later, another study in the JAMA warned:

Patient exposure to new drugs with unknown toxic effects may be extensive. Nearly 20 million patients in the United States took at least 1 of the 5 drugs withdrawn from the market between September 1997 and September 1998. Three of these 5 drugs were new, having been on the market for less than 2 years. Seven drugs approved since 1993 and subsequently withdrawn from the market have been reported as possibly contributing to 1002 deaths.

Examining warnings added to drug labels through the years, the study’s authors found that of the new chemical entities approved from 1975 to 1999, 10 percent “acquired a new black box warning or were withdrawn from the market” by 2000. Using some kind of high-falutin’ statistical process, they estimate that the “probability of a new drug acquiring black box warnings or being withdrawn from the market over 25 years was 20%.” A statement released by one of the study’s co-authors, Sidney Wolfe, MD, Director of Public Citizen’s Health Studies Group, warned:

In 1997, 39 new drugs were approved by the FDA. As of now [May 2002], five of them (Rezulin, Posicor, Duract, Raxar and Baycol) have been taken off the market and an additional two (Trovan, an antibiotic and Orgaran, an anticoagulant) have had new box warnings. Thus, seven drugs approved that year (18% of the 39 drugs approved) have already been withdrawn or had a black box warning in just four years after approval. Based on our study, 20% of drugs will be withdrawn or have a black box warning within 25 years of coming on the market. The drugs approved in 1997 have already almost “achieved” this in only four years — with 21 years to go.

How does this happen? Before the FDA approves a new drug, it must undergo clinical trials. These trials aren’t performed by the FDA, though — they’re done by the drug companies themselves. These trials often use relatively few patients, and they usually select patients most likely to react well to the drug. On top of that, the trials are often for a short period of time (weeks), even though real-world users may be on a drug for months or years at a time. Dr. Wolfe points out that even when adverse effects show up during clinical trials, the drugs are sometimes released anyway, and they end up being taken off the market because of those same adverse effects. Postmarketing reporting of adverse effects isn’t much better. The FDA runs a program to collect reports of problems with drugs, but compliance is voluntary. The generally accepted estimate in the medical community is that a scant 10 percent of individual instances of adverse effects are reported to the FDA, which would mean that the problem is ten times worse than we currently believe. Drugs aren’t released when they’ve been proven safe; they’re released when enough FDA bureaucrats — many of whom have worked for the pharmaceutical companies or will work for them in the future — can be convinced that it’s kinda safe. Basically, the use of prescription drugs by the general public can be seen as widespread, long-term clinical trials to determine their true safety. We are all guinea pigs.

Note: Heroin, that most notorious of ‘illegal’, ‘non-prescription’ drugs, was originally developed by the pharmaceutical company BAYER for use as a legal prescription drug.


“The majority of the cancer patients in this country die because of chemotherapy, which does not cure breast, colon or lung cancer. This has been documented for over a decade and nevertheless doctors still utilize chemotherapy to fight these tumors.” 

Allen Levin, MD, UCSF, “The Healing of Cancer”, Marcus Books, 1990 

“Several full-time scientists at the McGill Cancer Center sent to 118 doctors, all experts on lung cancer, a questionnaire to determine the level of trust they had in the therapies they were applying; they were asked to imagine that they themselves had contracted the disease and which of the six current experimental therapies they would choose. 79 doctors answered, 64 of them said that they would not consent to undergo any treatment containing cis-platinum – one of the common chemotherapy drugs they used – while 58 out of 79 believed that all the experimental therapies above were not accepted because of the ineffectiveness and the elevated level of toxicity of chemotherapy.”

Philip Day, ‘Cancer: Why we’re still dying to know the truth’, Credence 2000

“If I were to contract cancer, I would never turn to a certain standard for the therapy of this disease. Cancer patients who stay away from these centers have some chance to make it.”

Prof. Gorge Mathe, “Scientific Medicine Stymied”, Medicines Nouvelles, Paris, 1989

Dr. Hardin Jones, lecturer at the University of California, after having analyzed for many decades statistics on cancer survival, has come to this conclusion: ‘… when not treated, the patients do not get worse or they even get better’. The unsettling conclusions of Dr. Jones have never been refuted”.

Walter Last, “The Ecologist”, Vol. 28, no. 2, March-April 1998


ADVERSE DRUG REACTIONS: How Serious Is the Problem and How Often and Why Does It Occur?

Dr. Tim O’Shea

Although some adverse drug reactions are not very serious, others cause the death, hospitalization, or serious injury of` more than 2 million people in the United states each year, including more than 100,000 fatalities. In fact, adverse drug reactions are one of the leading causes of death in the United States.’ Most of the time, these dangerous events could and should have been avoided. Even the less drastic reactions, such as change in mood, loss of appetite, and nausea, may seriously diminish the quality of life.

Despite the fact that more adverse reactions occur in patients 60 or older, the odds of suffering an adverse drug reaction really begin to increase even before age 50. Almost half (49.5%) of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports of deaths from adverse drug reactions and 61% of hospitalizations from adverse drug reactions were in people younger than 60.2 Many physical changes that, affect the way the body can handle drugs actually begin in people in their thirties, but the increased prescribing of drugs does not begin for most people until they enter their fifties. By then, the amount of prescription drug use starts increasing significantly, and therefore the odds of having an adverse drug reaction also increase. The risk of an adverse drug reaction is about 33% higher in people aged 50 to 59 than it is in people aged 40.3

Adverse Reactions to Drugs Cause Hospitalization of 1.5 Million Americans Each Year

An analysis of numerous studies in which the cause of hospitalization was determined found that approximately 1.5 million hospitalizations a year were caused by adverse drug reactions.4 This means that every day more than 9,000 patients have adverse drug reactions so serious that they need to be admitted to American hospitals. Although the rate; of drug-induced hospitalization is higher in older adults (an average of about 10% of all hospitalizations for older adults are caused by adverse drug reactions) because they use more drugs, a significant proportion of hospitalizations for children is also caused by adverse drug reactions. In a review of more than 6,500 admissions of children to five different hospitals, 2.0% were prompted by adverse drug reactions. 5

Adverse Reactions Occur to 770,000 People a Year During Hospitalization

In addition to the 1.5 million people a year who are admitted to the hospital because of adverse drug reactions, an additional three quarters of a million people a year develop an adverse reaction after they are hospitalized. According to national projection, based on a study involving adverse drug reactions developing in almost 800,000 patients a year, more than 2,000 patients a day, suffer an adverse event caused by drugs once they are admitted. Many of the reactions in the patients studied were serious, even life-threatening, and included cardiac arrhythmias, kidney failure, bleeding, and dangerously low blood pressure. People with these adverse reactions had an almost twofold higher risk of death compared to other otherwise comparable hospitalized patients who did not have a drug reaction. Most importantly, according to the researchers, almost 50% of these adverse reactions were preventable. Among the kinds of preventable problems were adverse interactions between drugs that should not have been prescribed together (hundreds of these are listed in Chapter 3 of this book), known allergies to drugs that had not been asked about before the patients got a prescription, and excessively high doses of drugs prescribed without considering the patient’s weight and kidney functions.

Thus, adding the number of people with adverse drug reactions so serious that they require hospitalization to those in which the adverse reaction was “caused” by the hospitalization, more than 2.2 million people a year, or 6,000 patients a day, suffer these adverse reactions. In both situations, many of these drug-induced problems should have been prevented.

“…at least 250,000 people have attempted suicide worldwide because of Prozac alone and that at least 25,000 have succeeded.”  Professor David Healy, as reported in counterpunch.


 Death by Medicine

by Gary Null, PhD


  Review by Michael Seller, London on

For the first time a compilation has been made from all the published literature of injuries and deaths in the American medical system. And what a horror story it is.

In 1999 the Institute of Medicine admitted that “during the course of providing healthcare are adverse drug reactions (ADR) and improper transfusions, surgical injuries and wrong site surgery, suicides, restraint related injuries or death, falls, burns, pressure ulcers and mistaken patient identities…” They described medical errors as an “epidemic”.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) admitted that ADR are “one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in healthcare.”

The grisly figures are outlined in a table that shows the following annual mortality statistics:

Hospital ADR: 106,000+
Hospital Medical Errors: 98,000
Hospital Bedsores: 115,000
Nursing Homes/Malnutrition: 108,800
Outpatient ADR: 199,000
Unnecessary Surgical Procedures: 37,136
Surgery-related: 32,000

So we have a grand total of deaths induced inadvertently by doctors, surgeons or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedure annually: 794,936. That makes the American medical system the leading cause of death, with heart disease second at 652,091 and cancer third at 559,312.

Modern medicine is a gigantic killing machine, yet as the authors sarcastically put it, “the FDA crusades to prevent us from taking dandelion root.”

I’m disappointed that Null et al didn’t carry out a detailed analysis of the papers that they rely upon. Instead they accept the findings uncritically. For instance the figure of 106,000 deaths from hospital ADR has been widely criticised for various reasons. Even though this book is uncritical of the data, the numbers are so large that even if the figures were widely overestimated it would still amount to a huge death toll.

In fact the figures may not be so far off the mark. That’s because only between 5% and 20% of doctor induced errors are ever reported. According to one researcher this is because of the culture of medical training and practice. Mistakes are deemed unacceptable, represent a failure of character, and may be considered negligent with resulting lawsuits. This leads to mistakes being covered up rather than admitted.

Most people do not die from medical errors, so the figures from those that may suffer harm or injury are off the scale. The number of people having in hospital adverse reactions to prescribed drugs is annually 2.2 million. An additional 350,000 occur in nursing homes. Unnecessary or inappropriate antibiotics 45 million, that’s about half of all that are prescribed. Unnecessary medical or surgical procedures 7.5 million. People unnecessarily hospitalised 8.9 million.

A study by the General Accountability Office found that 51% of all approved drugs had at least one serious ADR that was not recognised during the approval process. The money making motivations of drug corporations and their incestuous relationship with the FDA who regard these companies as clients was demonstrated in the Vioxx scandal; the arthritis drug that conservatively killed 28,000 Americans.

Witnesses told a Senate panel that both the drug manufacturer Merck and the FDA knew that Vioxx could have serious adverse effects on the heart, but approved it in any case. The FDA even tried to prevent the publication of its own research that demonstrated the extent of the risks.

In 1978 the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a government agency, reported that “only 10% – 20% of all procedures currently used in medical practice have been shown to be efficacious by controlled trial.” It repeated this in 1995 as well as pointing out how high the infant mortality rate is compared to other developed countries. It then released a report that exposed how entrenched financial interests manipulate healthcare practice. The response to these findings? The agency was shut down.

The book covers statistics on medication errors, ADR, the spread of medications to young people such as Ritalin which “acts much like cocaine”, the negative effect of direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs which “creates needs or desires where there really isn’t a need or a desire.”

There are chapters on problems with specific classes of drugs: antibiotics, cancer chemotherapy and NSAIDs, and failings in various medical procedures such as surgery and x-rays. There are also chapters on the treatment of women and the elderly.

“The reason the medical establishment can continue to betray the public trust, is because there are no sufficient consequences for killing or maiming patients. The physician is rewarded for his efforts not for his results.”

The book concludes: “Drug companies are paying our legislators, television and radio stations, schools and news outlets to keep this information from you. You are Big Pharma’s `client.’ They want your `account.’ And they pay the quackbusters to attack anyone who tells you the truth…”

This slim volume has few words to each page, so reading about the horrors of the American medical system shouldn’t take more than a few hours. Even so, it should be avoided by those prone to depression!

I can only hope the medical system on the side of the Atlantic where I live is not quite as bad.

%d bloggers like this: