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Sermon Illustrations: Medical

In the first year of this voluntary reporting system, 56 U.S. hospitals reported slightly more than 40,000 snafus. This year 500 hospitals came forward with 192,000 admissions of error. USP's database now lists more than 500,000 cases in which the wrong drug or wrong dose was prescribed (for example, a blood-pressure drug given to a patient who needed an antidepressant) or the proper treatment was administered the wrong way (say, by IV instead of feeding tube). The private nonprofit organisation expects its database to approach 1 million cases next year. The ultimate goal of the reporting system is to identify patterns of errors so they can be prevented. This year's report found that seniors suffer the most from hospitals' mistakes. Patients ages 65 and older accounted for more than a third of all medication errors and 55% of fatal errors. Time December 1, 2003, David Bjerklie p75

Australian doctors are making potentially deadly mistakes in more than 4 million prescriptions each year. Almost one in 40 prescriptions contain errors, ranging from simple administrative mistakes to dangerously incorrect drug types and doses. Decimal points placed in the wrong spot, illegible handwriting, adult drugs given to children and wrong instructions are some of the mistakes putting lives at risk. Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care chief Bruce Barraclough said more than 500,000 Australians required hospital treatment each year because of prescription errors. Professor Barraclough said problems stemmed from the wrong medicine or dosage and the under-use, overuse or misuse of drugs. Medical and hospital errors have been estimated to cost about $4 billion and claim up to 18,000 lives each year. Professor Barraclough said most errors were made by GPs and specialists working in the community. Sunday Mail 28-12-03 P9. (Reported by Mary Papadakis)

That wouldn't be the first time that the medical profession was caught inventing a disease to go with the cure in hand. In the 1990s plastic surgeons discovered "micromastia," a syndrome characterised solely by small breasts and conveniently curable with silicone implants. A century and some years ago, doctors detected an epidemic of "hysteria" among affluent women, manifested by hundreds of unrelated symptoms and requiring constant medical attention. Or we may reflect on the case of hormone-replacement therapy, which doctors promoted as a cure for the "disease" of menopause, only to discover, after millions of women had been snookered into taking them, that the pills increased the risk of far nastier diseases like breast cancer. Time 19th January, 2004, p104

Thousands of Queenslanders are victims of hospital blunders every year, according to medical chiefs. Federal Government statistics show about 10,000 people die every year from medical errors. The Medical Error Action Group says the problem of hospital errors in Australia is "colossal". "There are cases where hospital staff are operating on the wrong limb, appendices have been removed instead of hernias, equipment is not being sterilised and hospitals are ignoring blood use-by dates," the lobby group's Lorraine Long said. But a black hole of medical error data in Queensland means the true number of mishaps is unknown, with admissions the system is flawed. Doctors and nurses are said to be reluctant to report mistakes for fear of reprisals. Chairman of the safety committee at Princess Alexandra Hospital Charles Mitchell said one of the most common sources of patient harm was medication mix-ups with nurses unable to read doctors' instructions. Sunday Mail 22-2-04 P33 (Reported by Jessica Lawrence)

" medical errors occur with some frequency - nearly 100,000 U.S. deaths a year are caused by such errors." Sanjay Gupta M.D. Time 10-3-03 p64

Nearly 10% of Americans who are admitted to a hospital pick up an infection while they are there. Sometimes the culprit is a germ that they've brought with them to the hospital But most hospital infections are transmitted from one patient to another by doctors, nurses and other health-care workers. Hospital infections contribute to the deaths of nearly 90,000 patients in the U.S. each year and add about $4.5 billion to medical costs. "Improved hand washing can reduce rates of infection as much as a third," says Elaine Larson, an expert on healthcare hygiene at the Columbia University School of Nursing. Study after study has shown that hospital staff generally follow hand-washing guidelines less than 40% of the time - sometimes a lot less. Christine Gorman Time 29-3-04 p61

Doctors cannot determine the cause of 37% of physical symptoms reported by their patients. Psychosomatics as reported in Reader's Digest June 2004 p 95

15% to 40% of all appendectomies prove unnecessary because the appendix turns out to be normal. Time 19-7-04 p 63

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week approved the anti-wrinkle wonder drug for yet another use: drying out supersweaty armpits (a condition known as hyperhidrosis). In a trial of 322 patients, better than 80% cut their sweating by more than half - and those are folks who can sweat through a business suit in minutes. One treatment, which lasts six months, will cost $750. Time 2-8-04 p 135

18,000 people die each year from "adverse events" in our hospitals. Reader's Digest July 2005 p 73

One in ten people who go to hospital are harmed in some way. Reader's Digest July 2005 p 75

Smoking accelerates the ageing of key pieces of a person's chromosomes by about 4.6 years. The effect of obesity is twice as bad, at nine years. The Lancet cited in Reader's Digest October 2005 p 27

Visiting a GP? There's an 83% chance you'll leave with a prescription, down from 94% in 1998. AIHW report as quoted in Reader's Digest April 2006 p30

Women are three times more likely to consult their doctor about a headache than men, and more likely to get a prescription to treat the problem. King's College London as quoted in Reader's Digest May 2006 p 27

One medium-sized apple contains a third of your daily vitamin C needs. Reader's Digest May 2006 p 156

In the last five years, Britons have seen a 38% rise in repetitive strain injury of thumbs and wrists. The cause? Text messaging on mobile phones. Reader's Digest September 2006, p 16

Half of all chronic migraines are "rebound" headaches triggered by the overuse of common painkillers. Both prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs may be to blame. Jefferson Headache Centre, Philadelphia Reader's Digest January, 2008, p 28