Virtually every hospital has a doctor on staff that is known for practicing bad medicine, but his peers don't call him on it. And the body count from medical mistakes made in American hospitals would fill four jumbo jets a week, according to an essay this weekend in the Wall Street Journal by noted surgeon Martin Makary.
Makary is on staff at Johns Hopkins Hospital and previously wrote the groundbreaking book "The Checklist Manifesto," which contained a series of simple guidelines aimed at stopping surgical mistakes and which were later adopted by the World Health Organization. His new book is "Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won't Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care."
In his essay this weekend in the Journal Makary says there is a "disturbing closed door culture" in American medicine and that doctors in hospitals routinely cover up or ignore the mistakes of colleagues. As often as 40 times a week across the country, a surgeon operates on the wrong body part, he writes.
"Roughly a quarter of all hospitalized patients will be harmed by a medical error of some kind. If medical errors were a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America—just behind accidents and ahead of Alzheimer's," Makary says in his essay.
"The human toll aside, medical errors cost the U.S. health-care system tens of billions a year. Some 20 percent to 30 percent of all medications, tests and procedures are unnecessary, according to research done by medical specialists, surveying their own fields. What other industry misses the mark this often?"
The solution, he writes, is for health care consumers to become better at checking into the background of their doctors and for the medical community itself to hold each accountable.