medicine

Iatrogenics: The unintended negative side effects (sometimes fatal) of medical intervention.

Examples include:
– Risk associated with medical interventions
– Adverse effects of prescription drugs
– Over-use of drugs, (causing – for example – antibiotic resistance in bacteria)
– Prescription drug interaction
– Medical error
– Post-operative infections and complications
Faulty procedures, techniques, information, methods, or equipment.

In the United States, estimated deaths from iatrogenics per year include:
– 12,000 due to unnecessary surgery
– 7,000 due to medication errors
– 20,000 due to other errors in hospitals
– 80,000 due to post-operative infections
– 106,000 due to non-error, negative effects of drugs (this is perhaps most shocking)
(Note: stats from Wikipedia quoting published studies. These numbers suggest that almost 1 in 10 people who die in the US are killed by the medical system)

Iatrogenics are real and the consequences are potentially dire. We live in an increasingly medicalised and medicated world. Somehow we’ve come to trust the intervention of medicine and medication in only mild or pre-emptive cases. Risking iatrongics in serious health (e.g. life-threatening, major injury) cases, where there is a high risk of harm associated with not treating, IS warranted.

Risking iatrongenics for anything less is NOT warranted. Self-management of minor ailments and prevention via a healthy lifestyle is the best way to manage your risk of harm. Medicine is not the panacea to any health woe – lifestyle is.

Case in point: people now get prescribed medication for hypertension (high blood pressure) when they are “pre-hypertensive” – that is, in the acceptable blood pressure range albeit at the high end. A “pre-hypertensive” person is far better managing their lifestyle in order to reduce their blood pressure rather than risking the iatrogenics associated with medicating.

On a political side note: I do wonder what our health spending would be if people only relied upon the doctor for serious health problems.