A video clip of GOP freshman Sen. Vicki Marble, speaking yesterday in opposition to a bill to require naturopathic doctors to be licensed. Here's the transcript of Sen. Marble's remarks:
MARBLE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. So we have one person that we know of that has been harmed by a naturopath. How many people are estimated killed by doctors every year? Physicians, who have degrees, and are practicing–and that is a good word for it, "practicing" medicine.
More people are killed by doctors and physicians than car wrecks, overdoses, you name it. [Pols emphasis] So I would say, you know, stating that one person that we know of that have been hurt by a naturopath, doesn't really hold up to the standard of what we think licensing does.
There is a vast amount of misinformation out there on the subject of physician "errors" and preventable deaths. Sen. Marble seems to be relying on an oft-quoted claim that upwards of 100,000 people or more die each year due to "hospital mistakes." But as the Journal of the American Medical Association found when it looked deeper, that frightening number doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Medical errors are a major concern regardless of patients' life expectancies, but our study suggests that previous interpretations of medical error statistics are probably misleading. Our data place the estimates of preventable deaths in context, pointing out the limitations of this means of identifying medical errors and assessing their potential implications for patient outcomes.
A recent Institute of Medicine report quoted rates estimating that medical errors kill between 44 000 and 98 000 people a year in US hospitals. These widely quoted statistics have helped create initiatives directed at patient safety throughout the United States. The numbers are undeniably startling; they suggest that more Americans are killed in US hospitals every 6 months than died in the entire Vietnam War, and some have compared the alleged rate to 3 fully loaded jumbo jets crashing every other day. Widely disseminated quotes include, "medical mistakes kill 180 000 people a year in US hospitals" and "medical errors may be the 5th leading cause of death." If these inferences are correct, the health care system is a public health menace of epidemic proportions…
Fortunately, it's not. A more accurate look at the issue comes from the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
During 2005 an estimated 2,449 medical malpractice cases were disposed of by bench or jury trial in state courts of general jurisdiction throughout the country. A jury decided about 99% of these trials.
In 2006, 15,843 malpractice payment reports were received by the National Practitioner Data Bank–consistent with the fact that the overwhelming majority of malpractice cases are settled out of court. And note these aren't just wrongful death payouts, but malpractice payments of all kinds. The JAMA study, which takes a much more sensible approach to defining what a "preventable death" under a physician's care means, doesn't attempt to assert a number, but makes clear the claim by Marble and others about the number of people "doctors kill" is massively overstated–and that's before you even look at the number of actual claims. By way of comparison, in 2006, just under 43,000 Americans undebatably died in automobile accidents.
In short, Sen. Marble, "that's BS."