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Radio Talk Shows Hosts vs. Common Sense: Britons receive worse health care than we do

forprofitmedicineThis week on the third most listened to conservative radio show, the host said the following, and I am paraphrasing here:

“30,000 Britons die annually from staph infections contracted in a hospital. The per capita equivalent in the US would translate into 150,000 Americans dying of staph infections annually. The actual number of Americans dying of staph infection is much lower than that, therefore, our for-profit healthcare system in the US is much better than the taxpayer funded health care system in the UK.”

My Analysis

National-HealthUsing round numbers, UK has a population of around 60 million, so a death rate of from staph infection is 1 in 2,000. In the United States, 80,000 Americans die of staph infections each year. With the U.S. population of around 305 million, the death rate from infection is about 1 in 3,800. Though the host’s math is not accurate, it is true that per capita more Britons die of staph infections than in Americans. But does the death rate from one infection spread a good measure of an entire health care system?

My first thought was that the use of hospitals per capita under a government provided health insurance system would be greater than the use of hospitals in a for-profit system. The logic being than a Briton can go to the hospital without having to worry about personally paying for the visit (Yes, they pay for it via a tax, but money isn’t a factor when deciding to go to the hospital). Therefore, Britons probably go to the hospital more often and by the nature of being in the hospital more often, catch staph infections, and die more often from staph infections. Americans number of death by staph infections would be suppressed by Americans not being the hospital as often as Britons. After searching the internet for statistics to support my theory, I came up empty handed. Although, I think my logic is sound, I would concede the effect of this difference is most likely nominal.

junkscienceI recently read a book, “Junk Science: by D.P. Agin. It is at the Clarksville Montgomery Library on the second floor (500 Agi). Some information I learned in that book lead me to ask another question: Why is the host using the example of staph infections? Why not infant mortality rates, life expectancy data, or any other measure? It seemed to be a very specific, somewhat obscure measure to use. The World Health Organization uses dozens of specific data measures to determine the healthiness of a country. I wont rehash these here as I assume that these are well known, but I will include a link to their website. In general, we are not at the top of their list in regards to health measures.

7,000 Americans die from medication errors in hospitals annually. 106,000 Americans die from adverse side effects of prescriptions. And don’t forget the staph infection death rate of 80,000 annually. The medical profession classifies these events as “iatrogenic” deaths. Iatrogenesis is defined as “induced by physicians words or therapy.” It should also be noted that I believe these occurrences are self reported by physicians. More people die by “Iatrogenesis” in the United States than by:

  • Stroke (4th leading cause of death at 137,000 annually)
  • Diabetes (5th at 72,000)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease (6th at 72,000)
  • Flu and Pneumonia (7th at 56,000)

Iatrogenesis is the third leading cause of death in the United States. I’ll let that sink in, Death by a physicians words or therapy is the THIRD LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN AMERICA. Our heath care system is killing us off faster than diabetes, strokes, mental diseases, and Influenza.

Beyond at least casting doubt on the host’s reasoning, selection of a limited measure, and sheer ignorance of other more pertinent issues, this research has lead me to ask myself a question.

Everyone is aware of medical issues like strokes, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and all the various forms of flu. The media is bombarding us with commercials for diabetes supplies, signs of strokes, entire televisions shows devoted to how to cope with the Alzheimer’s patients, the next scare tactic for the upcoming (but never arriving) flu pandemic… but where is the coverage on the bigger killer, the healthcare system itself. Before you read this, did you ever hear the word Iatrogenesis? If not why do you think that is?


Blayne Clements
Blayne Clements
I am a 30 something graduate from Austin Peay State University, where I graduated in 1997 with two majors (Accounting and Finance). I am a very happily married man, with one beautiful daughter. I enjoy a professional life of public service and a personal life of travel, reading, music, and always trying to learn from others.


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