Death by Medicine: Redux

by Michael Braunstein

Western medical procedures, whether routine, elective or emergent, are too often a preventable cause of death. Years ago, one massive and detailed report revealed that Western medicine is the leading cause of death in the developed world. This is a topic covered many times before and recent news items bring it to the fore once again.

Yes, going to the doctor, going to hospital, is dangerous to your health.

First, let’s acknowledge that in cases of major trauma, there is nothing more miraculous than modern medicine. What the miracle-makers in an emergency room can do to save a life is astounding. But once the patient advances beyond that, mistakes and even non-mistakes can kill a patient more often than disease.

I first learned the term iatrogenic disease back when I was in pre-med. I was working at a University teaching hospital as a respiratory therapist to help defray college costs. All too often, I noticed that patients were getting drugs that were contraindicated for the condition described on their chart. I remember quite clearly one particular instance when the doctor’s orders were for the administration via nebulizer of a drug that carried an explicit warning against use on the patient I was about to treat. I won’t get into details but let’s just say the medical staff didn’t take too kindly to a college kid questioning their instructions. (Note: Watching the 1971 Oscar-winning film The Hospital sealed the deal. I became a med school dropout.)

Death of an American Hero. Neil Armstrong, the first human to step foot on the moon, surviving a journey through space of a half-million miles, could not survive a trip to his local hospital in 2012. His family received a secret multi-million dollar settlement when it appeared Armstrong received incompetent medical care over several days and in multiple cases.

Now recent studies by medical journals and government researchers have supported the basic premise covered in a 1998 report by the Institute of Medicine, backed by the Cochrane Report.

Almost two decades ago, five doctors published a lengthy paper based on metadata they had studied about medical treatments, outcomes and causes of death. What they exposed was the poorly kept secret that American medicine has grown so invasive, so violent and radical that if it were listed in the Center for Disease Control’s annual report on Leading Causes of Death, American medical treatment would rank number one, ahead of cancer and heart disease. As recently as spring of 2016, both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Journal published articles that generously ranked only medical errors as the third leading cause. Note: Medical errors are but a subset of iatrogenic disease. Some properly performed, correctly prescribed medical treatments result in and cause death also. Those aren’t errors, per se, but are still iatrogenic death sentences.

By tirelessly collecting and publishing data from various research, Gary Null, Ph.D., Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D.; Martin Feldman, M.D.; Debora Rasio, M.D.; and Dorothy Smith, Ph.D. published Death by Medicine. It has now become a documentary and a book. And all of it has opened the eyes of millions of Americans to what we already were suspecting: one of the most dangerous things you can do is place your health in the hands of American medicine.

Bandaids for Bullet Wounds. There is absolutely no doubt that American emergency room docs and nurses are miracle workers. Stationed on the frontline of care and in the trenches of triage, when it comes to emergent care of trauma and acute symptoms, no place in the world can work the wonders that an American ER can. And some of the technology that can pull a patient through in the ICU is indeed remarkable. But those are the rare cases of extreme measures.

Most of our visits to doctors, pharmacies and hospitals are more on the less dramatic side, though indeed, sometimes very serious. Those medical protocols for chronic, systemic and non-emergency diseases are wherein lie the greatest risks. From the data published 20 years ago (and it’s only gotten worse), 106,000 patients yearly are killed by adverse drug reactions (ADR) even when prescribed and administered correctly. 115,000 die from medically acquired bedsores. 32,000 die during surgery. And 37,000 die annually from unnecessary procedures. Add in the various other medically caused deaths and you get a whopping total of 999,936 a year. These numbers all come from published research and make medical treatments the leading cause of death in the United States. Even though the CDC lists falls from ladders they ignore the million who die from medical treatment.

Affordable Care or Too Big to Fail? I’m not a big fan of Democrat Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. She and I debated about metaphysics when we both lived in Hollywood. But in a recent debate with other Dem candidates, she plainly stated that our health care system is actually a disease-care system.

Politics aside, the financial bottom line is that the cost of deaths by medicine amount to nearly a trillion dollars a year. Since the groundbreaking publication of Death by Medicine, several followup studies by numerous researchers have confirmed and itemized the various problems with American medicine. Hospital-acquired infections are becoming an epidemic. Complications after elective surgeries are killing people. And who doesn’t know someone who has either been injured or died from medical treatment? The system is broken. It needs a major overhaul and may have to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit

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