Recently, Mr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a science communicator tweeted statistics that shook the US. He tweeted that on an average, more than 500 people die every 48 hours due to medical errors. He tweeted this after two back-to-back mass shootings that killed more than 30 people. While many people called it as an insensitive comparison, medical professionals had different matters to discuss- calling the data a hoax.
Health professionals and science communicators are calling this data fake and outdated. According to Mr. Hank Green, the creator of YouTube’s SciShow, this statistic data is potentially damaging, and a renowned science communicator should never share it without any context. The number isn’t created out of thin air but a poorly conducted survey in the year 1999. Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that up to 98,000 people were dying in hospitals annually from medical blunders that could have been avoided. This report started a twenty-year-long debate among health professionals. The very next year, in 2000, Indiana University pointed out that out of 98,000 people, many were seriously sick and couldn’t be compared to the general public. Another similar research based on insurance claims was conducted in 2016 by Johns Hopkins. This report gave a shocking figure; it said that around 251,454 hospitalized patients died from medical errors annually. If this statistical data were to be true, it would mean that more than half the deaths in the US are occurring due to medical errors. And medical errors would be the third leading cause to die in the US after heart disease and cancer. This figure is poorly calculated and exaggerated.
Amore recent and intense research came up with a believable number than Hopkins study and IOM research. Instead of just looking at medical errors, the authors considered and scrutinized all adverse events and their connection to the patient’s death. After this research survey, they decided whether the death was a medical error or not. They came up with a far more realistic number, i.e., 50, which is 80 times smaller than the existing one.