06 April 2011

Iatrogenic Justification

The Activist Teacher has blogged about illness. In his note he compares the mortality rates of smoking and iatrogenesis - being harmed by your physician (note not murdered, simply killed or made ill).

In isolation, the stats may be stark and clear cut. (As yet, we don't have them in the UK; however, Margaret has taken steps to correct this anomally). The problem is that I don't think that these statistics should be read outside of their context. Usually, a person seeks medical help when they are ill; further, these medical treatments tend to have side effects. The patient is putting himself at risk in the hope of becoming well. So, when collating statistics how does one count someone who was seriously ill and so opted to take a risky procedure which killed him?

I'm not dismissing or excusing the problem of iatrogenesis, in the last six months I've met two people whose relatives went into hospital for a leg amputation and had the wrong one taken off! Instead, I would be very interested in how one should collate the figures. Perhaps, Margaret's FoI will yield an interesting discussion.

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