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Death in a White Coat

In the January 26, 2010, New York Times, two fourth-year Harvard Medical School students addressed “Patient Safety: Conversation to Curriculum,” stressing “a need to end the secrecy around medical errors and learn from our mistakes”.
Noting that findings by the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report on medical errors have been “slow to trickle down to medical schools,” Daniel Blumenthal and Ishani Ganguli underscore the “pressing need for a cultural shift that dissolves the secrecy surrounding medical errors.” After all, Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
In his new book Death by Medicine, Dr. Gary Null — an award-winning journalist and one of this nation’s leading advocates of natural healing — confirms that the number of people who die each day because of medical errors (e.g., physician mistakes, hospital-related illness and reactions to FDA-approved medications) — is the equivalent of six jumbo jets falling out of the sky. Every year, the number of Americans dying at the hands of medicine exceeds the American casualties in the Civil War and World War I combined.
According to Null and his three co-authors, drug company representatives write about new medicines in glowing articles, which are then signed by physicians who are paid handsomely for their cooperation, although they may not know about the adverse side effects of the drugs they promote. The most toxic substances are often approved first, while milder and more natural alternatives are ignored for commercial reasons. Adverse interactions between prescription drugs are largely untested, despite the fact that more and more Americans are taking multiple drug-combinations, often for medical conditions related to simple vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Fortunately, American healthcare consumers increasingly vote with their pocketbooks, seeking integrative healthcare when they are sick and allopathic medicine only in cases of emergency.
Kudos to practitioners-in-training Blumenthal and Ganguli, who echo the sentiments expressed by famed patient-safety researcher Dr. Lucian Leape, of Harvard’s School of Public Health: “When I go to a doctor, I should have somebody who I know is competent, who I know I can trust and who will put my interest first. Two of those three have nothing to do with science.”

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18 thoughts on “Death in a White Coat

  • Robert T. Foy, DC

    We need more of this type of doctors to be. True health care is created through the knowledge of nutrition and physiology. Proactive approaches will decrease the need for management through pharmaceuticals. In today’s medicine “First, do no harm.” is rarely thought of. A true doctor advises his/her patients about health threatening habits and not just filling out a script. By educating the patient about how and why things work will bring about new attitudes for health. People need to understand that health is a participation activity. A person cannot just sit back and wait for health. It takes work on the patient’s part. Health = Participation, Pharmaceuticals = wait and see.

  • As deadly as mistakes in medicine may be,they pale in comparison to the morbidity and mortality effected by medicine practiced correctly. Bad paradigms,practiced daily, have more pervasive effects than the occasional mistake. Tobacco products,for instance,kill many more people than the occasional episode of E. coli food poisoning. The 284 issue of JAMA in 2000 has an article “Is US Medicine Really the Best in the World?” Barbara Starfield M.D. added up conservative numbers indicting prescription medicine,used correctly in the hospital alone,for 110,000 deaths each year. Doctors and patients must realize “You’ll never medicate your way out of diseases you behave yourself into”. We rely on medications to stop gap symptoms brought on by negative lifestyle choices. Its a bad paradigm.

    • Betty Smith

      I am so happy to be invited into a world where doctors entering into the field of medicine are entering the field as human beings with wisdom and compassion- I am a humanistic professional who have had to deal with doctors and hospitals treating my immediate family- I am atill traumatized over learning that “no one seems to be in charge, leaving doctors behaving like drive by shooters, using their pens to prescribe medication for individuals without knowing their names and or conditions- This is not a ranting urge, but a factual experience with evidence!

  • And yet they the Republicans want tort reform. What other recourse does the patient have if he is injured through Mal practice?
    The figures are a little off. Annually health industry combined deaths exceed the deaths in the Vietnam war which was over 60,000 Americans. There were half a million men killed in the civil war.

    • John Reynolds

      One cannot help but wonder about how much bribery is being practiced between BIG business and politicians. Here in Alaska there is open debate on how much a a lobby should be allowed to give to a state politician. There is no debate about bribery between people of honor. An honorable person would shun anyone who tried to bribe him. ANY debate is proof positive of corruption from both parties.
      Both the bribe-offering lobbies and politicians should be imprisoned for weakening America by becoming criminals. When a person becomes a criminal, and a briber and the accepter of a bribe are both criminals. When a person becomes a criminal he weakens the state – this is a criminal act. Such people are destroying America.
      After over 6000 years of recorded history with multitudinous brands of politicians, can anyone compile a list of just 50 things done by over 6000 years of politicians that satisfy 3 requirements?
      1. Good for the majority.
      2. protects minority rights.
      3. Really the most important – really good for children.
      I have personally asked several hundred people this question and have never had a “yes” answer even from a U. S. Congressional aide who had a Dr.’s degree in political science.
      Why should we not expect the Republicans to, one more time, prove their danger to America? Or for that matter, should we expect honor or integrity from any politician who PERMITS someone to lobby to have favors done for BIG business? This is a matter of shame and dishonor!

      • Swifturtle

        It is not the Republicans, it is not the Democrats, it is not the T-party. It is much bigger than that. It is international influence, wielded by our own president, and put in place by the same people who placed Bush, Clinton, Bush, and previous presidents in place. It is known now as the World Health Organization. The SOVEREIGN UN. Eugenics is obvious in the healthcare bill. I worked in medical malpractice for risk management for 13 years and have had numerous bad, fairly traumatically bad medical treatment in my life, which drove my desire to prevent it. But PLEASE DON’T MAKE THIS A POLAR DEM-REP ISSUE! I have firmly believed in both side in my life, sometimes at the same time! Now I have elaborate evidence that IT is NEW WORLD ORDER from the UN that is driving this attack on every person’s decisional freedom by creating the monopoly of all time.
        That corruption is rampant in government across the board is undeniable. We are in great danger and need to band together against a huge common foreign enemy, the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. Do not let it drive us apart when we need to unite to save our freedom to be self-sufficiently healthy (as much as possible)!

    • Alan Burke

      I agree. And the more male babies are damaged by vaccines, causing Autism, there will be several million less children that could be fathered from these damaged male children if they ever reach adulthood.

    • I agree – the damage and death caused by the modern practice of medicine could not possibly go unnoticed if there was some interest in human welfare on the part of the government. It is too obvious. I think the gardisil vaccine has something to do with curbing fertility, too. The people are just like sheep, assuming that the system is there to help them and protect them, not realizing that instead of getting better, they are getting sicker, new health problems, being prescribed more drugs, and on and on. The “boiled frog” syndrome.

  • snydly

    Airline pilots have to get re-certified every 6 months, and their industry only loses a few hundred lives a year.
    Shouldn’t such training and review be used with Drs, RNs and pharmasists?

  • kathy

    It seems to me that most doctors nowdays are only trained in “How to make the big bucks and live an excessive life.” Even the ones that do care, are largely ignorant!

  • Karen-Lynette Bauer

    The thesis of these two young physicians-to-be is spot on. We can only hope because they are at Harvard, someone might actually listen to what they are saying. And wouldn’t that be a refreshing change for those of us who have been pointing out for several decades that the emperor has no clothes.

  • In my 92 years no doctor asked me what I eat or what supplements I take. But I am always asked what prescription medications I take. Since I take none, they do express great surprise. In my case shouldn’t a doctor be very interested in knowing whether my success is due to the suplements I take or lack of medications? I know that the doctor cannot attribute such success based on only one individual’s history. But isn’t the docctor’s office a good place to gather evidence before summmarily dismissing the value of supplementation? After all, I see hundreds, perhaps thousands of file folders of other patients about whom he could collect such data. He has a gold mine of data available to him.

    • Alan Brezin

      Frank great point! I have been wondering about the same thing. I had a heart transplant due to a congenital heart defect that caused heart failure later in life. I take several nutritional supplements and exercise moderately everyday and I am now 62 and doing very well 16 years after my transplant. I was several times turned down for a transplant by different transplant centers because they didn’t think I would survive for very long after and they didn’t want to waste a heart on me they said. I believe they were concerned about their statistics mainly. I believe I am thriving because of my good nutrition, attitude, and healthy lifestyle which no one in the medical community seems to care to formally study.

  • doc skidmore

    I am looking for a doctor that wishes to practice HEALING without drug stores.
    So far I have been treated by drug pushers.
    I have learned several things in my research.
    First , look at the curiculem of the medical schools. within the first 4 semesters there are manditory classes in profit making or related to it.
    Second, alternative healing classes are listed as electives.
    Third, 95% of scholarships are related to drug companies or their parent companies.
    Fourth, read the bylaws of the American Medical Association.
    Fifth, what is the corilation between the FDA and all drug manufacturers and why ain’t those with conflict of interest in the Federal Prison for commercial murder and wholesale fraud and embezzlement?

    • Mike Music

      I remember that one year, the AMA threw 12 doctors out of their organization. That number is so low, that it must have included only the criminally insane, that were caught. Speaking of the criminally insane, for many years, the AMA was run by a Dr Fishbyne, who would only approve drugs and things that advertised in his AMA Journal. Most people who die in a hospital, die from infections received in the hospital. We, as a country, must come up with a better system. Let’s look at other countries, and see what we can learn.

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