Medical errors: We can’t trust doctors to get it right | KevinMD

Medical errors: We can’t trust doctors to get it right | | Physician 

I spend a lot of time going around to different places warning professionals and the public that overdiagnosis, overtesting, and overtreatment are bad for our health.

Recently I have been witnessing these dangers firsthand. I have a friend who has lung cancer — the “good,” slow-growing kind. His doctors have been less kind than the cancer. They keep screwing up in ways that seem likely to kill my friend before his cancer does.

My friend has a small army of very highly specialized doctors all treating lab results in one tiny medical domain while ignoring all the aggressive stuff the other specialists are doing.

The result is dangerous medical chaos. Doctors love pictures and get paid a lot for ordering and reading them. Over the years my friend has been subjected to countless and mostly unnecessary imaging studies with contrast dyes that have compromised his kidneys.

There have also been several close calls because he was prescribed multiple medicines by multiple doctors without coordination and due consideration of the drugs’ interactions and synergistic harms.

The mistakes were all easily preventable if anyone were minding the store and paying attention to the patient, not the lab tests

Medical error is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S.: Some 440,000 deaths a year are caused by hospital mistakes, and who knows how many more from outpatient mistakes.

But we can’t trust doctors and hospitals to get it right. I am getting in the habit of joining my friend at his visits to make sure the doctors and nurses don’t screw up. You shouldn’t need to bring along a doctor to protect you from your doctors.

The system is broken, and the incentives are all wrong. And it is not likely to be corrected soon.

Too much money is being made by powerful corporations and institutions that profit from the current lack of coordination and sensible regulation.

Free-market medicine that treats health care just like any other business commodity just doesn’t work — because it puts profits before patients.

For now, the only protection is a well-informed consumer.

Keep in mind that less is often more.

Allen Frances is a psychiatrist and professor emeritus, Duke University.  He blogs at the Huffington Post.



4 thoughts on “Medical errors: We can’t trust doctors to get it right | KevinMD

  1. Kerry C. Mitchell

    Doctors are such a nightmare. Especially, I think, to those of us with long-term, chronic illnesses or something like the cancer you describe. Doctors are very good at handing out pills for specific little things those pills help. Other than that, ugh! That is unfortunately the largest part of my experience and my friends’ experiences. The medical profession frightens me. If one is not vigilant at all times, one can get in dangerous situations with medical professionals. Where is there humanity? Has it all been thrown out in medical school?


    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      I agree that far too many in the profession are as you describe, probably shaped by the medical school culture. That’s where the militaristic “hero” complex is drilled into unresistant minds.

      But I feel compelled to speak up for some of the wonderful doctors I’ve had the fortune of finding. These men and women were and are compassionate, thoughtful, humble, and helpful. (Now that I think about it, the quality of humility may be the most important.)

      I realize it’s mainly just luck to have found them over the years, but it proves that excellent docs are out there, so if you’re not being treated well, I encourage you to seek out a differen one. That’s what I had to do when I ended up with a doctor that didn’t believe my pain.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Medical mistakes kill more than 400,000 each year | EDS Info (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

Other thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.