From the March 2002 Idaho Observer:

Quarter-million doctor-induced deaths annually: Iatrogenocide?

IATROGENIC [Gk., iatros, physician, genein, to produce], caused by treatment or diagnostic procedures. An iatrogenic disorder is a condition caused by medical personnel or procedures or through exposure to the environment of a health care facility, including fears instilled in patients by remarks or questions of examining physicians. See also: 'nosocomial', (iatrogenesis, iatrogeny, n.) ~Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 5th Edition, 1998

by Alan Yurko

It is well known that many new drugs, devices, surgeries and treatments are touted as miracles of modern medicine. However, there are two sides, possibly two hundred sides to such claims. This article focuses on a dark side. Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware.

Ninety-five percent of the people I know are doctors, scientists or activists in health care issues and/or victims of iatrogeny -- including myself. They have commanded my honor and respect since many of these people are addressing epidemic iatrogeny in their work.

A generation ago, people trusted their doctors blindly and implicitly. The personal bonds people used to form with their doctors have largely been replaced with the cold hard contemporary reality that medicine has become a $multi-billion per year business with little room for compassion. The healthcare market place is not kind and people have lost trust. Iatrogeny plays a large and ugly role in this.

A recent study published in The Journal of The American Medical Association (2000:284:94) by Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, showed that in the U.S. there are:

* 12,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery

* 7,000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals

* 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals

* 80,000 deaths/year from nosocomial infections in hospitals

* 106,000 deaths/year from adverse effects of medications

This totals 225,000 deaths per year from iatrogenic causes, placing iatrogeny as the third leading cause of death in the U.S., second only to heart disease and cancer. The scary part is that this does not include disabilities and disorders; just deaths in hospitalized patients. In any event, when one ponders that more than four times as many people die in one year from doctors' mistakes than died in the entire Vietnam War, one is aghast at why this information isn't making headlines or why huge think tanks funded by medicopolitical interests haven't formed.

We have the American Heart Association to address heart disease, Richard Nixon's “War on Cancer,” and even groups like “Mothers Against Drunk Driving.” Organizations have been formed to address almost every sort of issue, save iatrogeny.

My guess is that medicopolitics have not figured out a way to capitalize on of all these deaths and disorders, ... yet. There is, however, a small “experts” consortium that does address iatrogeny in the journals, but such studies are few and far between. Funding such studies doesn't appear to be sound business practice.

Iatrogeny is not exclusive to the U.S. The British Medical Journal stated March 18, 2000 that, “In Australia, medical error results is an many as 18,000 unnecessary deaths, and more than 50,000 patients become disabled every year.”

Studies released in the last 10 years show similar trends in the UK, Canada and New Zealand. New Zealand has a large percentage ratio of adverse drug reactions comparable to the U.S. It should be noted that the U.S. and New Zealand are the only countries that allow aggressive pharmaceutical drug advertisements.

One very interesting statistic are deaths attributed to addictive drugs in the UK between 1990 and 1995:

Benzodiazepines - 1,810

Methadone - 676

Heroin - 291

This emphasizes my point that millions of dollars are given to organizations for deaths and disabilities from a myriad of causes, except iatrogeny. Here we have two legal prescription drugs causing more deaths each, than heroin.

Many can pooh-pooh these statistics and claim that to err is human, etc., however there comes a point when one must look deeper. The facts and statistics are too overwhelming to ignore. Those in power have choices to make. They can rationalize, deny or take responsible action against epidemic iatrogeny.

The latter seems to be slow in genesis. There has been much denial and silence from the allopathic medical industrial complex. Since medicine has become an arm of business and since business and politics are such passionate bedfellows, one must look at some other interesting facts.

Drug companies spend huge fortunes for political influence. In fact lobbying for pharmaceutical interests in the first half of 2000 reached $42.9 million; and it was estimated that $230 million would be spent during the election. George Bush welcomed $1.7 million from drug companies just for his inauguration celebrations (British Medical Journal January 27, 2001).

Drug companies are a business and have always been a business. They do not give such an investment without an expected return with profits. Perhaps this is why officials turn a blind eye to the fact that doctors and hospitals are responsible for nearly a quarter-million deaths in the U.S. per year. Or perhaps this is why the pharma-companies manufacture pesticides and chemicals that cause cancer and disease and then manufacture drugs to treat diseases they cause that can cause even more disorders to create a market for more drugs -- and more profit.

The scenario above describes a very lucrative cycle. Perhaps this is why funding for disease research successfully diverts attention from the pharmocartels' own carcinogenic and deadly products. One need not look too hard for reasons why doctors' and hospitals' mistakes are the third leading cause of death in America -- with no end in sight.

Many believe that Barbara Starfield's study cited earlier is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, the study only looked at hospitalized patients. What of the in home and outpatient errors? There are more people to consider in these groups, and certainly more iatrogeny. Could it be that iatrogeny is the leading cause of death in the U.S.? In the World?

As startling and unsupported as that sounds, it may very well be true. At any rate, the iatrogenic holocaust makes World War II deaths pale in comparison. Yet only patronizing and minimal attempts to recognize and correct iatrogeny have been made.

Murder Or Mistake?

The fine line between murder or mistake is a hot potato. If you saw your neighbors being killed one by one or en masse, yet did nothing about it, or took up for the killers, you could be guilty of “accessory to murder” or “accessory to murder after the fact.” Many analogies and ethical juxtapositions could be generated in such a debate. One could even make the argument for a global elitist plan at population control allowing iatrogeny to gain such momentum.

Regardless of etiology, iatrogeny is real. It is rampant and far from being under control. By making iatrogeny, through semantics, sound as if it is an infectious disease beyond the control of physicians and hospitals, we allow the medical profession and pharmaceutical cartels to distance themselves from responsibility and relieve them from the culpability for what mirrors negligent homicide.

It would be humanly impossible to eliminate genuine mistakes entirely. “But how many times does a mistake happen until it's not just a mistake anymore, but negligence?”

This author believes that 225,000 deaths every year may be an example of when mistakes cross over to the darkness of negligence. If so, then we are witnessing the greatest holocaust to befall mankind ever.

In closing, I leave you with my own definition of a freshly coined word:

Iatrogenocide - [Gk, iatros, physician, genein, to produce, cide, killing] The extermination of a population in a systematic fashion through medical error.

* For more information on iatrogeny, contact me at

Originally published in The Journal of Degenerative Disease, February/March 2002: 3(3rd); pages 37-38

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