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The Arrogant Doctor

Dr. Marty Makary uses 20-year-old bad data to make an alarmist argument at the Wall Street Journal. He should know better.

by
Dr. Peter Weiss

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September 24, 2012 - 11:40 am
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At the risk of sounding arrogant, most physicians are arrogant. Some are so downright arrogant that they make Obama look humble.

The Wall Street Journal recently had a two-page article from a Dr. Marty Makary (“How to Stop Hospitals from Killing us.”) This self-righteous yellow journalism article went on to regurgitate the Institute of Medicine’s 20 year old review paper claiming that there were 98,000 deaths a year from medical errors. Before I respond to Dr Makary, I need to repeat what I wrote here on PJ and elsewhere a short time ago:

We hear much about the number of deaths from “medical errors.” This narrative began when an Institute of Medicine article stated that medical errors cause up to 98,000 deaths a year in U.S. hospitals. This received huge play in the mainstream media. While any medical error is bad — and sometimes tragic — they do not occur to the extent reported. The original report relied on a study from 1991. Only a small subset (27%) referred to negligent or substandard care. That still leaves the number of medical error deaths at a staggering 27,000, but the remainder of these adverse events were normal complications of medical and surgical care, such as infection and post-surgical bleeding. There we go again with “complications” equaling malpractice.

The other neglected point: how many “complications” were due to care in a teaching institution or training program? This study also failed to consider the quality of outpatient facilities or private medicine.

The problem with yellow journalism is that it is based on a little truth, and then it runs wild with speculation. Dr Makary does just that.

First, he makes the assumption that no other doctor but himself was capable of improving health care outcomes. Thank you Dr Makary. The Institute of Medicine paper is more than 20 years old. He assumes that we physicians have stood still for 20 years. There have been incredible advances in the treatments of cancers, spinal cord injuries and more. Umbilical cord blood stem cell therapies are about to revolutionize medical therapies.There has also been tremendous strides to improve and limit any complications from surgeries, re-admissions and the like. While any complication is a horrible occurrence, it does not happen anywhere near the rate that Dr Makary claims. He should know better than that. He is using 20 year old data — and faulty data at that.

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