Damn!

Many/most of you perhaps think of me as a Ranting Maniac. And I occasionally am ... at the keyboard. But I am the soul of non-confrontation in person. (Byproduct of my Southern Mom's tutelage.)

Sometimes my aversion to contention goes too far. It did recently.

I was on a panel that included a hospital association senior director. I'd made a public remark about the 100,000 (100,000+?) people U.S. hospitals unnecessarily kill each year. He responded with, "Whether it's one or one-hundred thousand, it's too much." Reasonable enough, you might say.

No!
No!
No!

In effect it was a standard hospital association denial, that I've heard a dozen dozen times. Fact: There is a huge difference between 1 and 100,000 thousand. Of course every death is "too much." But 1 is a fully excusable statistical anomaly when millions of patients pass through the system; 100,000 is an epidemic, a tragedy, a travesty, shameful, pathetic ...

A few years ago there was controversy over the CDC's estimate of 98,000 deaths due to error. Now some number like that (I've seen as high as 193,000 per year) is more or less accepted wisdom ... except by state and national hospital associations. (And as one nationally prominent ER doc pal said to me, "And, hey, Tom that doesn't include the thousands more we kill or maim in doctors' offices.")

Consider two articles in national papers that appeared on the same day, June 6th. New York Times: "Hospital infections kill an estimated 103,000 people in the United States a year, as many as AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined." (While we stagger under this burden, countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands have it essentially licked.) USA Today: "As many as 98,000 Americans still die each year because of medical errors despite an unprecedented focus on patient safety over the last five years, according to a study released today [by the Journal of the American Medical Association]."

At any rate I'm furious at myself for letting the hospital association exec's remark pass quietly. I should have arched my shoulders and shot back in no uncertain terms. I should have, in fact, Southern Mom or no ... RANTED.

Damn!