Do you feel safer in a hospital or on an airplane?

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The World Health Organization released a report recently that led with the headline that you are more likely to die from a medical error than from flying in an airplane.

plastic surgery error cartoon

Reuters take on the report:

While being treated at a hospital, there is a one in 10 chance a patient will experience a medical error and a one in 300 chance that a patient will die because of the error. Meanwhile, the risk of dying in an airplane crash is about one in 10 million…

Each year in the United States, 1.7 million infections are acquired in hospital, leading to 100,000 deaths, a far higher rate than in Europe where 4.5 million infections cause 37,000 deaths, according to WHO.

More than 50 percent of acquired infections can be prevented if health care workers clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based handrub before treating patients.

Simply put, data on medical errors in the US should be a national scandal, and is yet another reason why health care spending is so high. The most troubling fact is that we have known about the issue for years, see IOM’s To Err is Human.