We live in a society where we are trained we must always be doing something. If you sit at home and read on a Saturday night, something is wrong with you. If your computer is not filled with e- mails, you must not be working hard enough. When we order a meal, if the plate is not overflowing, we are not satisfied. Well, I am here to tell you that sometimes less is more. Sometimes less technology is best. Sometimes less procedures and less medication is actually better. First do no harm. Sometimes less is more.
Johns Hopkins has released a study this week that shows that medical error is now ranked as the #3 cause of death in the United States. Dr. Martin Makary and team estimate that 250,00 die each year from medical errors. On the CDC list of deaths, that would rank them just behind heart disease and cancer. Mistakes in medicine can be related to surgical complications to mix-ups with the doses or types of medications patients receive. Because medical errors are under-reported, no one knows the exact numbers. The study published in the British Medical Journal is another voice stating that medicine has risks and mistakes are made.
Modern medicine has its place, especially for acute care, but for chronic problems and elective procedures, the risks and benefits should be analyzed including the risk of error. “You have this over appreciation and overestimate of things like cardiovascular disease, and a vast under recognition of the place of medical error as the cause of death,” Makary stated in an interview.
This is not a new realization for me. A few years ago, I wrote the book, “Medicines That Kill” where I put together statistics showing that medications were probably the number one cause of death in America. This includes errors in medications, adverse reactions, mistakes with medications, overdoses, and even mistakes made in production and dispensing. I am not saying that modern medicine does not have a place, but we need to understand the risks and have alternatives spelled out. This includes the risks of mistakes in medicine in general as well as the risks of medications.
Dr. Makary’s research is important and calls for continued research and accountability. Think of your life, are the areas where you can say, sometimes less is more? In this newly released study, I will be asking myself, is less more for my patients and those I serve?