The third leading cause of death…
Is it true that medical errors and prescribed drugs are really the third leading cause of death in our society?
There seems to be a fairly persistent news story going around that suggests that medical errors and prescribed drugs are killing so many people that they have actually become the third leading cause of death in our society after heart disease and cancer. Personally, I find this very dubious.
In various guises, this story has ‘done the roundsâ€™ a few times in recent years, but the ‘current storyâ€™ comes from a study of hospital deaths in the United States which collated all sorts of data to reach this conclusion that medical errors were killing more people than most other things.
It comes by measuring the amount of people who are admitted to hospital but then die and some human error is found along the way - a better drug could have been used, a different surgical procedure may have had fewer complications, another piece of equipment may have been more efficient/effective.
But the thing is, we have to look at the fact that these deaths are only about 4% or 5% of hospital admissions. So in 96% of cases, medical staff are doing everything right, and patients are getting better.
And we need to remember that the patients were ill enough or injured enough to be admitted to hospital in the first place…so itâ€™s not like we have 100% perfectly healthy members of society walking around, and doctors just ambush them in the street and kill them! Itâ€™s not like that…the reality is these folks may have died anyway, or may have died a few days, weeks, months later. They were sick and in need of life-saving surgical intervention, or they needed multiple medications, so they are not ‘typical populationsâ€™ to start with. In truth, many of these people were in hospital for heart surgery, or fighting cancer, in the first place. So if an error in surgery resulted in a death, do we say that person died of ‘medical errorâ€™ or did they die from heart disease, which was the reason for the surgery in the first place?
Additionally, the numbers used to come up with these “third largest cause of death” quotes are hotly contested numbers…they are not officially recorded figures at all. Many doctors and experts have criticised these studies as inaccurate, ‘twistingâ€™ the data to show a contentious result.
Cause of death
There is a lot of this sort of thing online…twisting data to make it show what you want it to show. This goes on in the research business, in medicine and in most other fields of research too. I have talked about this in my seminars on a few occasions. Depending on where we chose to look, at the cause or the effect, changed how we can determine someoneâ€™s cause of death.
For instance, if someone smokes for 40 years and then dies of lung cancer, that personâ€™s death certificate will record ‘cancerâ€™ as the cause of death. But we could argue that ‘smokingâ€™ was actually he cause of death, couldnâ€™t we?
This gives us a different way of looking at causes of death. Smoking is a major causal factor in heart disease, and smoking is also a major cause of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and several other fatal lung conditions, as well as lung cancer, of course. So if smoking is the root cause of all those conditions, then perhaps it is more meaningful to consider smoking as the â€™cause of deathâ€™ rather than recording all those deaths as ‘heart diseaseâ€™, ‘lung cancerâ€™, ‘COPDâ€™ or whatever else.
- According to official data, heart disease is the #1 cause of death worldwide
- And cancer is the #2 cause of death worldwide
- Diabetes, and then COPD and other closely related lung conditions are close behind in the top ten
- These 4 conditions account for at least half of all human death every year.
But some people have pointed out, that obesity is a contributory factor to all of those conditions. Poor diet is a contributory factor to all of those conditions. Lack of exercise is a contributory factor to all of those conditions. And of course, poor diet and lack of exercise, in turn, are the leading causes of obesity. This has led some researchers to declare that in fact, the #1 worldwide cause of death is obesity.
If poor diet, too much sugar and a lack of exercise, cause obesity and diabetes, which in turn then lead to heart disease, stroke, cancer and more, then itâ€™s easy to see how these researchers can claim that obesity is the leading cause of death.
I have read opinion pieces from some doctors and researchers taking that argumentÂ through to its logical conclusion and claiming that “Lack of exercise is the leading cause of death worldwide.”
They have a point.
Or maybe ‘poor diet is the leading cause of death worldwide.â€™
And I postulate, perhaps then…
“Apathy is the leading cause of death worldwide” …because people know what they should do, but they donâ€™t do it.
They know they should exercise daily, eat a good diet, quit smoking, drink less, get some fresh air, drink more water…but they donâ€™t do it, because they canâ€™t be bothered. They think they are young and strong and it wonâ€™t catch up with them. They think they can get away with it. Despite the data.
Folks donâ€™t appreciate their good health til itâ€™s gone.
Apathy - the worldâ€™s biggest killer.
Yes or no?
What do you think?
Just something to think about.
To your good health!