Medical Errors II

Article excerpt

Regarding your January 2000 Publisher's Page and article on medical errors: Institutions love to cry wolf when placing blame on someone else! The Institute of Medicine (IOM) scared the public with its claims that somewhere between 44,000 to 88,000 to 120,000 patients die each year because of human error. To us, offering such a range of deaths is hardly precise! The numbers are based on extrapolations from two studies. We also note that even the lower end of this range is three times higher than the National Safety Council estimate.

If the findings are correct, the obvious solution for absolute, complete surefire prevention of all medical errors would be very simple: just ban all medical practice in the country.

Part of the recommended agenda is to create "incentives that will lead to a safer health care system." The IOM suggests creating a new federal bureaucracy called "A National Center for Patient Safety." The track record for most recent government programs is not encouraging. We observe that every government program seems to create about twice as many problems as it addresses, leaving us with three problems:

* Could government programs such as Medicare and managed care practices promoted by the government have something to do with these fatal errors? If bureaucrats limit staffing to half as many nurses, therapists, and physicians as needed to do the job right, and also limit patient encounters to 8 minutes, might these bureaucratic misadventures increase medical errors? …