Wednesday, 18th March 2009
Rod Liddle is appalled by Sir Liam Donaldson’s deployment of statistics in the hope of making it harder to have a drink. A surrealist would struggle to keep up with such campaigns against our human pleasures
Iatrogenesis accounts for the deaths of an estimated 72,000 British people every year — or slightly more than the combined numbers of those feckless people dying from smoking, drinking and being very fat. I suppose you could call it the silent killer; there are no government campaigns to educate the public about its lethality. When lists are published showing the top killer diseases it is never present, although it is the third most common cause of death. The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, is not forever haranguing us about how we should avoid causes of iatrogenesis. I know of no medical pressure groups staffed by starch-shirted harridans screeching at us about the problem, nor taxes designed to prevent us from contracting it. And yet it is very easy to avoid iatrogenesis; all you need to do is never visit a hospital or a doctor, and indeed, if a doctor should approach you in a public place, then roll up your newspaper and swat him away, much as if he were a malarial mosquito, while holding your other hand tightly over your nose. Iatrogenesis is the proper name for death by doctors. The latest figures I’ve seen, through the conduit of the Royal College of Physicians, is the one quoted above — a quite remarkable 72,000 deaths per year. Not all of them are the result of premeditated murder, of course; the overwhelming majority of victims are dispatched through pure incompetence or negligence. I am not sure if the figure includes those who die from infections generated in hospitals — my suspicion is, it does not. In which case you can add another 8,000 to the total, making a nice round figure of 80,000. Astonishing really, isn’t it?
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