There are about 784,000 iatrogenic deaths (deaths induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures) a year in the US. No one complains about those deaths

Table Of Iatrogenic Deaths In The United States
(Deaths induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures)

Condition Deaths Cost
Billion $s
Adverse Drug Reactions 106,000 12 Lazarou (1) Suh (49)
Medical error 98,000 2 IOM (6)
Bedsores 115,000 55 Xakellis (7) Barczak (8)
Infection 88,000 5 Weinstein (9) MMWR (10)
Malnutrition 108,800 Nurses Coalition (11)
Outpatients 199,000 77 Starfield ( 12) Weingart (1, 12)
Unnecessary Procedures 37,136 122 HCUP(3, 13)
Surgery-Related 32,000 9 AHRQ(8,5)
TOTAL 783,936 282

We could have an even higher death rate by using Dr. Lucien Leape’s 1997 medical and drug error rate of 3 million. (14) Multiplied by the fatality rate of 14 percent (that Leape used in 1994 (16) we arrive at an annual death rate of 420,000 for drug errors and medical errors combined. If we put this number in place of Lazorou’s 106,000 drug errors and the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 98,000 medical errors, we could add another 216,000 deaths making a total of 999,936 deaths annually.

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ADR/med error 420,000 $200 billion Leape 1997(14)
TOTAL 999,936

Annual Unnecessary Medical Events

Unnecessary Events People Affected
Iatrogenic Events
Hospitalization 8.9 (4) 1.78 (16)
Procedures 7.5 (3) 1.3 (40)
TOTAL 16.4 3.08

The enumerating of unnecessary medical events is very important in our analysis. Any medical procedure that is invasive and not necessary must be considered as part of the larger iatrogenic picture. Unfortunately, cause and effect go unmonitored. The figures on unnecessary events represent people (“patients”) who are thrust into a dangerous health care system. They are helpless victims. Each one of these 16.4 million lives is being affected in a way that could have a fatal consequence. Simply entering a hospital could result in the following (out of 16. 4 million people):

  • 2.1 percent chance of a serious adverse drug reaction (186,000) (1)
  • 5 percent to 6 percent chance of acquiring a nosocomial [hospital] infection (489,500) (9)
  • 4 percent to 36 percent chance of having an iatrogenic injury in hospital (medical error and adverse drug reactions) (1.78 million) (16)
  • 17 percent chance of a procedure error (1.3 million) (40)

In the United States estimated iatrogenic deaths per year include: 

  • 12,000 due to unnecessary surgery
  • 7,000 due to medication errors in hospitals
  • 20,000 due to other errors in hospitals
  • 80,000 due to nosocomial infections in hospitals
  • 106,000 due to non-error, negative effects of drugs


Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US




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