from the Congress Action newsletter

Doctors Deadlier Than Guns

by: Kim Weissman
December 5, 1999

A new book has been released by the National Academies Institute for Medicine, which concludes that the U.S. health care system has some serious flaws. According to a news release,

"The human cost of medical errors is high. Based on the findings of one major study, medical errors kill some 44,000 people in U.S. hospitals each year. Another study puts the number much higher, at 98,000. … The majority of medical errors do not result from individual recklessness…but from basic flaws in the way the health system is organized."

The Executive Summary of the book (titled To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System) states:

"Two large studies, one conducted in Colorado and Utah and the other in New York, found that adverse events occurred in 2.9 and 3.7 percent of hospitalizations, respectively. … In both of these studies, over half of these adverse events resulted from medical errors and could have been prevented. When extrapolated to the over 33.6 million admissions to U.S. hospitals in 1997, the results of the study in Colorado and Utah imply that at least 44,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors. The results of the New York Study suggest the number may be as high as 98,000."

There is on our political landscape a left-wing special interest group called Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). One of the most outspoken organizations advocating ever more stringent gun control laws, "Physicians for Social Responsibility believes that America's epidemic of gun violence is a public health challenge." And PSR would like to treat guns as a disease. This group maintains a web site which arrogantly proclaims "Physicians for Social Responsibility is working to create a world free of nuclear weapons, global environmental pollution, and gun violence. The active conscience of American medicine, PSR uses its members' expertise and professional leadership, influence within the medical community and strong links to policy makers to address this century's greatest threats to human welfare and survival."

PSR touts all the usual leftist dogma: nuclear disarmament, apocalyptic warnings about global warming, and, of course, gun control. PSR claims, "While gun ownership is often touted as a means of self-defense, documentary evidence shows that a gun kept in the home triples the risk of a homicide occurring in that home."

As for your right of self defense -- a right recognized from time immemorial -- and about concealed carry laws, "PSR believes that an increase in the availability of firearms will lead to an increase in unintentional shootings, suicides, and shootings committed in a moment of rage. The availability of firearms increases the risk of firearm injury and death. PSR therefore discourages the carrying of concealed weapons, and opposes 'shall issue' legislation."

Yet despite all the anti-gun hysteria from groups such as the PSR, it appears from the Institute for Medicine study that doctors themselves are deadlier, and pose an even greater threat to "human welfare and survival", than the guns they so hate and rail against.

According to the National Safety Council, for the year 1998, there were a total of 1500 people of all ages killed by firearms accidents. And according to the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control, for the year 1995 there were a total of 35,957 deaths by firearms from all causes -- accidents, suicides, and intentional killings. This means, even using the most conservative estimates from the Institute for Medicine study, that more people die from medical mistakes than from all types of gun violence. And since the Institute for Medicine study only examined accidental medical deaths, comparing accidental firearms deaths shows that doctors are at least 29 times deadlier than guns, and (if the figure from the New York study is accurate) doctors may be 65 times more dangerous than guns.

Given that report from the Institute for Medicine, one has to wonder how many people with gunshot injuries might have died after they reached hospitals, not because of the bullet wound, but rather because of the "medical errors" of proud members of the Physicians for Social Responsibility.

As the numbers clearly show, doctors, hospitals, and other medical personnel pose a far greater "threat to human welfare and survival" than do guns. So perhaps Physicians for Social Responsibility should forget their obsession with guns, and focus instead on the much greater threat to humanity: themselves. Physician, heal thyself.


The National Academies:

Book ("To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System"):  

National Safety Council:

Centers for Disease Control:

Physicians for Social Responsibility:
PSR Violence Prevention Program
PSR "Information" site about the Second Amendment

The above article is the property of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his permission. Contact him prior to reproducing.


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