On May 3, 2016, world-renown British Medical Journal published “Medical error – the third leading cause of death in the US,” authored by a medical professor and a medical research fellow at Johns Hopkins University, one of America’s most respected medical institutions. As the cause of an estimated 251,454 U.S. deaths annually, medical malpractice ranks behind only heart disease and cancer, and far ahead of respiratory disease, accidents, stoke, Alzheimer’s diabetes, flu/pneumonia, kidney disease, suicide, firearms, and vehicle accidents.
More disturbingly, the ground-breaking BMJ medical errors article suggests that its death estimate is too low. “[W]e’re not even counting this – medical error is not recorded on US death certificates” – and calls for change in such reporting practices.
Importantly, the BMJ medical errors article implicates the unhealthy culture of secrecy and conspiracy of silence that counter-productively shrouds the healthcare industry: discussions “occur in limited and confidential forums… and are not disseminated.” The authors call for “hospitals to carry out a rapid and efficient independent investigation into deaths to determine the potential contribution of error”.
Also on May 3, 2016, The Washington Post headlined the medical errors article, quoting the healthcare quality director of a Harvard Medical School affiliate medical center: “There has just been a higher degree of tolerance for variability in [medical] practice than you would see in other industries.” TWP also quotes the principal author of the BMJ medical errors article: “When a plane crashes, we don’t say this is confidential proprietary information the airline company owns. We consider this part of public safety. Hospitals should be held to the same standards.” (emphasis added)
For two decades, Mr. Waterman tirelessly has fought healthcare provider claims of dubious confidentiality and special privilege. The BMJ and TWP articles underscore the correctness and fairness of his patient advocacy.
TWP also marquee that “another element of harm that is often overlooked is the number of severe patient injuries resulting from medical error”. It quotes a leading doctor and healthcare consultant: “Some estimates would put this number at 40 times the death rate”!