Given the enormous amount of money that is spent on our health care system and the research that has gone into the various diseases we would be excused if we think that there should be able to trust our health care system to deliver quality health care. Sadly, our Western health care system falls well short of what is desired. Instead of healing and health it largely delivers suffering and further disease. Mendelssohn as far back as 1979 (and he wasn’t the first to suggest it) considers that the public has been ‘conned’ about the benefits delivered by ‘scientific medicine’. There is a great deal of myth that surrounds our current system.
A part of the myth is that medical practice has produced an overall increase in health in the past one hundred years. However, historical analysis has found that general improvements in social and environmental conditions provide a more adequate explanation of the changes than the rise of ‘scientific medicine’. Factors such as the improvement in diet and nutrition, sanitation and improved general living conditions have made the greatest difference.
Hospitals are deadly. Mistakes/errors, accidents, infections, medical drug disasters, diagnostic equipment including; X-rays, ultrasounds and mammograms make hospitals very dangerous. Hard technology has taken over the central role in modern medicine as it is considered effective and efficient. This has however been questioned. It is considered uneconomic and it also causes an unnecessary amount of pain and suffering. Accidents in hospitals now occur more frequently than in any other industry except mining and high rise construction. In addition to this are the medical doctor caused diseases. They are so common that they have their own name – iatrogenesis. Again the general public is unaware of how common this disease is. All told, iatrogenesis accounts for 784,000 deaths each year in the United States – more American deaths than all the wars of the 20th century combined. 98,000 deaths a year are caused by medical errors alone, and surgical errors account for another 32,000 deaths. These figures include only deaths. Officials admit that medical errors are reported in official data only 5 percent of the time, so the problem is much greater – exactly how much greater, no one really knows.
Research carried out in Australia showed that the equivalent of a jumbo jet load of people died unnecessarily died each week in Australia because of medical interventions – this information was contained in an official Health Department report. It was substantially hushed up – because of the potential impact of the information on the general public! We talk about and work to reduce road accidents and we ‘ground’ airplanes that are shown to have faults – but the general public is generally unaware of the risks that they take when they come under the care of the medical health care system.
Apart from accidents and medical mistakes adverse drug reactions and infections account for many of the incidences of iatrogenesis. Adverse drug reactions are very common. Some of these reactions can be minor but they can also be deadly. There are five main groups into which these adverse reactions can be placed. Those that:
adversely affect the blood cells,
cause toxicity in the liver,
damage the kidneys,
affect the skin, and
affect the unborn baby.