America’s Healthcare System is the Third Leading Cause of Death

Barbara Starfield, M.D. (2000)
Summary by Kah Ying Choo
This Journal of the American Medical Association article illuminates the failure of the U.S. medical system in providing decent medical care for Americans.
In spite of the rising health care costs that provide the illusion of
improving health care, the American people do not enjoy good health, compared with their counterparts in the industrialized nations.  Among thirteen countries including Japan, Sweden, France and Canada, the U.S. was ranked 12th, based on the measurement of 16 health indicators such as life expectancy, low-birth-weight averages and infant mortality.  In another comparison reported by the World Health Organization that used a different set of health indicators, the U.S. also fared poorly with a ranking of 15 among 25 industrialized nations. Although many people attribute poor health to the bad habits of the American public, Starfield (2000) points out that the Americans do not lead an unhealthy lifestyle compared to their counterparts.  For example, only 28 percent of the male population in the U.S. smoked, thus making it the third best nation in the category of smoking among the 13 industrialized nations.  The U.S. population also achieved a high ranking (5th best) for alcohol consumption.  In the category of men aged 50 to 70 years, the U.S. had the third lowest mean cholesterol concentrations among 13 industrialized nations. Therefore, the perception that the American public’s poor health is a result of their negative health habits is false.

Even more significantly, the medical system has played a large role in undermining the health of Americans.  According to several research studies in the last decade, a total of 225,000 Americans per year have died as a result of their medical treatments:     

• 12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery• 7000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals

• 20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals

• 80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals

• 106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs
Thus, America’s healthcare-system-induced deaths are the third leading cause of the death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.

One of the key problems of the U.S. health
system is that as many as 40 million people in the U.S. do not have access to healthcare.  The social and economic inequalities that are an integral part of American society are mirrored in the inequality of access to the health care system.  Essentially, families of low socioeconomic status are cut off from receiving a decent level of health care.

Read More Here . . .

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