Friday, July 21, 2006

Follow-Up: Iatrogenic Disease

In an entry a couple of days ago, "Gazette: 'Is Faster Safer?'" July 19, 2006, in the course of wandering around a number of topics, I mentioned something called iatrogenic disease -- diseases caused by doctors and hospitals.

I had no idea at the time that the Institute of Medicine was about to release a major report on the subject the very next day. Associated Press, "Report Says Medication Mistakes Common; 1.5 Million Americans Injured Every Year," The Gazette, July 21, 2006, p. 6A (and also available here).

Bear in mind that the 1.5 million Americans who suffer this particular form of iatrogenic disease are a small subset of the whole -- the ones for whom some mistake has been made with regard to their prescribed medicines. Iatrogenic conditions may also be caused by any one of a variety of other factors, most of which are unknown to me -- after all, this is not my normal line of work.

I recall reading somewhere of a study that some 30% of doctors and other hospital workers fail to wash their hands thoroughly after using the rest rooms, as required. Diseases can locate in areas of a hospital floor, or equipment, that have not been adequately cleaned. Care -- up to and including surgery -- may be applied to the wrong patient. X-rays may be mis-read.

I hasten to add that I have great admiration for the medical profession -- especially the nurses -- and don't mean to pick on any who have given their lives to the care of the rest of us. "Doctors Without Borders," and others, are real heros. It would be remarkable if there was not a similar level of mistakes made by lawyers, accountants, architects and engineers, and various trades people.

I just found it interesting, and worth comment, that the day after I referred to the subject this major report was issued.

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