MEDICAL ERRORS I: Indiana Scientists Question IOM Report
Challenging a 1999 report which concluded that up to 98,000 patients die in the United States each year from preventable medical errors, a group of Indiana scientists dismissed the numbers as "highly exaggerated" in an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Washington Post reports. The Indiana University School of Medicine authors, led by Clement McDonald, argued that the Institute of Medicine study wrongly assumed that all patients who experienced medical errors or "adverse events" died as a result of those errors. "The available data do not support IOM's claim of large numbers of deaths caused by adverse events, preventable or otherwise," they wrote, calling subsequent efforts to increase oversight on medical professionals "premature" (Weiss/Davis, 7/5). In an opposing article, Harvard University public health specialist Lucian Leape, a co-author of the IOM report, defended the results, claiming that medical errors caused deaths in 80% of the cases he studied. "It's not true that most of the people would have died anyway -- [McDonald is] just plain wrong," he said, noting that the death toll may have even eclipsed 98,000 last year (Mestel, Los Angeles Times, 7/5). Troyen Brennan, the lead author of last November's "headline-grabbing" IOM report "To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System," said he feared that the debate over the scale of medical errors, as well as stalled legislative action, might defuse efforts to improve patient care (Washington Post, 7/5). Leape agreed. "Let's quit quibbling about numbers. Would anybody feel better if it's only 20,000 who die?" he concluded (Los Angeles Times, 7/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.