A federal agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, works to improve public health in the United States. The CDC is a branch of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Many news sources cite statistics from the CDC’s annual report listing the top 10 causes of catastrophic injury or death.
The public is aware that heart disease and cancer usually top the annual lists; they occupy first and second place on the CDC’s 2017 list. The CDC lists accidents as the third highest cause of death in 2017.
The elephant left out of the room
The top three leading causes of death are important because they account for over 50 percent of the top 10 reasons for death. The third leading cause of death is particularly significant in that it omits iatrogenic causes of fatal accidents, namely catastrophic medical or surgical errors.
The CDC issued a 2017 volume of disease categorization. Standardizing data with uniform classification codes allows researchers to make accurate international health outcome comparisons. The tome, which contains 1,524 pages, devotes approximately two pages to the classification of medical and surgical errors. The CDC euphemistically calls these grave injuries “misadventures to patients.”
In 2016, Johns Hopkins researchers were shocked that data from an eight-year study of medical malpractice deaths made accidents the third leading cause of deaths in the nation. Researchers understood that the CDC did not include catastrophic medical malpractice deaths in its annual reports. The CDC has steadfastly ignored John Hopkins’s urgent requests to include this information in future top-10 reports. With the addition of catastrophic iatrogenic deaths, it could boost accident deaths into first or second place.
The medical consumer’s right to know
Critical information hides in a dim corner until the government releases statistics that reveal the full impact of catastrophic medical malpractice deaths. Powerful lobbyists represent hospitals, health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, including medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who have a stake in minimizing the true size of the problem.